This I Believe

Maxey, Chester C. (Chester Collins), 1890-1984


  • Chester Maxey describes the "creative force" that is vital to a meaningful society and how the United States' success is a result of its nourishing this creative spirit.
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. According to legend, most college professors are absent-minded. But Dr. Chester Collins Maxey has kept his wits about him so well, that he has emerged as one of the foremost young educators and administrators in the country. Professor of political science, now president of Whitman College, Dr. Maxey states his broad convictions on life.
Philosophers have long surmised and modern science seems on the verge of proving that the key to the understanding of our universe is "creative force"--forever creating the future from the present and the past. This I believe. And I further believe that
the uniqueness of man lies in his possession of unmeasured creative power. This creative power is man's to use, according to his own judgments as to ends and means. But it is not a power which man may refuse.
Willingly or not, every man who lives must assume the role of a creator. For by doing nothing, he begets results just as surely as by doing much. So I am convinced and I believe that the most important thing for individuals, for groups, and for nations, is to develop ideals by which the innate creativeness of each and all may be guided to greatness rather than to pettiness, to ever unfolding excellence rather than to inferiority or depravity.
Ideals are not given to man. He has to create them. And by creating ideals, man gains a truly transcendent power--the power knowingly to behave like a beast or a God or anything between. By the ideals they create and their effective creativeness in pursuance of those ideals, the individual, the group, and the nation will take rank in the supreme reckonings both of man and of God.
Because I believe these things, I strongly believe in the United States of America and the American way of life. Admitting all of our failures and making allowance for all of our false boastings, I still believe that there has not yet appeared on this earth a form of society richer in exalted ideals than the United States, or more successful in translating ideals into actuality. Thomas Jefferson once said that "The mission of America was not to spread American ideals throughout the world, but to give the world a convincing
example of what those ideals could accomplish here in America." That, I believe, America has done. Not perfectly, but impressively. So impressively, that all the world is aware of the dimensions of our achievement.
I believe that America can far surpass its past example of creative ideals at work. We have not yet, even here in America, fully exploited the possibilities of putting every man on his own with freedom and opportunity to become a greatly creative individual. For Thomas Jefferson, that was the most fundamental and sacred of all American ideals, the one from which he would never retreat. Jefferson knew that creative individualism, properly fostered and safeguarded, could place America in the forefront of the nations of the world in the quest of the good life.
Looking backward, we know that Jefferson was right. Looking forward, we see that the major task of our time is to manage the tremendously regimented forces of mass production, mass living, and mass politics, so that there will be ample security--not alone for the material needs of the individual, but for the creative genius which abides in all. We shall not accomplish this by universalizing those kinds of security which stifle creativeness.
We must never kill the incentive to create. Whatever the cost, we must give it room, and stimulation, and above all higher and higher ideals to reach for. Only thus can we preserve and perpetuate the greatness of America's creative service to the world.
That was Dr. Chester Collins Maxey, author and college president, who pins his faith on the creativeness of man.