This I Believe

Milliken, William Mathewson, 1889-197


  • William Milliken describes his grandfather and mother's legacy of service to others, and his attempts to follow the same philosophy.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. William M. Millikin has been the director of the Cleveland Museum of Art since 1930. He is not only responsible for the display of great art objects, but he must direct the procurement of new works for his museum. In this connection, he just completed his thirty-fifth trip to Europe. Here is Mr. Millikin with his creed.
A rule of life is difficult to analyze and put into words. It is something deep down, to which our actions respond almost automatically. When I think of it, I realize that in the first instance, it is nothing of my own making, that it comes from simple
things I've heard and dreamed of, actions based on actions of others, thoughts directed by example. My grandfather and my mother believed profoundly in service for others. Simple, positive, thoughtful, generous, often anonymous. The basic expression of a deep personal religious faith. I hardly ever heard my mother say an unkind word of anyone. She always saw the best in each and every one with whom she ever came in contact. To the day of her death, she enjoyed life in its fullness. Serene, she kept her sight set on the future, with the door open to change.
I've endeavored to carry on that philosophy as well as I could, trying to see the good side of things and of people, minimizing their faults, living in a positive world. I've been helped so much by people who've given me confidence in myself, belief, encouragement,
the kind word, building, not tearing down. Appreciation of things done is the road that leads to happiness and success for us all.
Life is so much bigger than the individual, and as I grow older, the more I come to realize that the contribution we each make is small. Few of our names will be blazoned on the pages of history. But if I've done my job sincerely and simply for something in which I believe, if I have served unselfishly, if I have taken my little talents and used them for something else than myself, bigger than myself, then in that I may find some anonymous immortality, the element of good which lives on in the world after I pass into the beyond. There's nothing new, nothing exceptional in this, but it is the essence of my thinking.
I know I fail often in carrying out my dreams, but I hopefully keep on trying. The world of today, with its race tensions and its puzzling controversies, harries and worries me. I believe profoundly in democracy, not the political creed but the basic idea that no one in essence is better or worse than another, that each one is here in the world to work out his own salvation, that each should have his opportunity, and that he who by chance or by effort has achieved something. By that token, he has an obligation to the others which is so much the greater. I am puzzled by the hate, the prejudice, the antagonism which a different point of view creates. I try to keep my mind open to the new and unfamiliar, for in them is change. And life is change.
I believe in setting ideals high, ideals of quality and of service. Nothing is too good for the world, and if we have convictions and have tact and persuasion, we can lift taste and understanding and can bring untold pleasure and enjoyment to thousands, and at the same time modestly add to the sum of human knowledge. It is really as easy to build up as to tear down. All of this goes back to the essential and guiding idea which in some strange way has become the guiding principle of my life. Again, it is nothing new. But it is positive belief, so well expressed by the phrase, "the Everlasting Yea," of Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus.
That was William M. Millikin of Cleveland, who has devoted his life to lifting the taste and understanding of people in the field of fine arts.