This I Believe

Petersen, Howard C.


  • Howard Petersen describes how children confidently believe that good will triumph over evil, and outlines his belief that we must work to make this youthful optimism a reality by learning to live in harmony with others.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. The allegation has been made that bankers with their heads full of increments an interest rates are cold and inhuman. We find a warm contradiction to that charge in the person of Howard C. Peterson former Assistant Secretary of War, who at forty-one is president of one of the nation’s leading banks, The Fidelity Philadelphia Trust Company. Now Mr. Peterson’s beliefs.
From the welter of confusion of modern life, with its tempo that destroys contemplation, I find it difficult, indeed, to distill from my thoughts concisely what I believe. Perhaps it is one of the great weaknesses of our times that we think too little about the principles which underlie our
daily conduct, and we seldom speak of them.
Last Christmastime, I read James Thurber’s new book, The Thirteen Clocks, to my two children. As in all fairy tales, the forces of good and evil were strongly at contest. There was the wicked Duke who had the unpleasant habit of slitting people with his sword cane from their guggle to their zatch. But he was no match in the end for the good and handsome Prince. My boy and girl never doubted for a moment that the Prince would win out and free the captive Princess. And as I read them this excellent tale, I thought of how like—and yet, unlike—the world of witches and fairies is from the world of reality.
Our adult world differs from that of a child. The fresh ideals of youngsters: their vigor in tackling
almost anything, their unbounded faith in the triumph of good; these are forces we must make work in our everyday world, where the wicked Duke is not always so miraculously done in.
In our daily lives, in getting along with our neighbors or in the greater problem of nations living together, I think we must believe in the existence of certain, constant, universal truths, and believe these principles are worth striving for. Man has faculties vastly superior to other living creatures. He is distinguished, as well, by hopes and aspirations, by his groping toward a fuller, better life. I hold that no one should be on the sidelines in the effort to obtain that goal.
I believe that man cannot begin to achieve the accomplishments of which he is capable, unless he
progresses in the solution of an intimate, basic problem: the problem of living in harmony with other individuals. And this must be without undo restraint on individual liberties and with an awareness of the enormously difficult problem of relations among groups of individuals. I think everyone must contribute to such progress because by its nature, the problem is an aggregate of small relations—of everyday living—in our homes, schools, and communities. The essential dignity of man, his importance in his society, his inherent rights so wonderfully expressed in our Declaration of Independence; these concepts must be strengthened and made real, in step with our achievements in human relations, government relations, and international relations.
I emphasize our social problems because our progress there has been so puny when compared with our progress through history in physical and cultural fields. By this emphasis, I do not intend to depreciate man’s spiritual side. Unless this strength, which comes from the spirit, pervades all human activity, I believe there can be no meaningful progress towards the fulfillment of our destiny, toward the justification of our very existence.
That was Howard C. Peterson, Philadelphia banker, who despite the hectic pace of business today finds time to reflect on the vital subject of human values.