This I Believe

Tucker, Richard

  • Richard Tucker describes his belief in honesty and keeping one's word, and recounts how he strives to teach his son that even so-called "white lies" still hurt the teller of the lie.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Although his career is just seven years old, Richard Tucker has already been called the Metropolitan Opera's leading tenor. He was born in Brooklyn and completely American trained. By the time he was six, he was singing in the choir of the Allen Street Synagogue, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He still serves from time to time as a cantor, his performance on the high holy days attracting nation-wide notice. Richard Tucker's talent has brought him to many of the world's great opera houses, and his singing of Italian roles at the La Scala in Milan was received with an enthusiasm almost invariably
reserved for Europeans. In the whirl of sudden success, he has held on to a firm traditional sense of values. This is what Richard Tucker believes.
Spiritual happiness is to make peace with yourself, your neighbors, and with God. And honesty has always been, for me, the grounds on which my Maker, my fellow men, and I meet as friends. Therefore, honesty is synonymous with spiritual happiness in my life.
People complain that so much sadness and loneliness exist today because of the complexity of the world. Some reasons for complexity are lies, half-truths, evasions, all of which inevitably result in confusion. I have found that the way out of any confusing situation is to tell the truth, and there must be a strict definition of what is truth.
My youngest son once asked me, “What’s so terrible about a little white lie?” I said, What do you mean by a white lie? “One that doesn’t hurt anybody.” "Are you somebody," I asked? “Of course.” He was indignant. "Then you are hurting someone with a white lie, yourself, I answered. By lying, you’re accustoming yourself to a way of life that has neither integrity nor meaning. It adds you to the millions who face their neighbors with suspicion."
The “you show me and maybe I’ll believe you,” attitude, so popular today, comes from too much lying. For true brotherhood to exist there must be confidence in your fellow man. And confidence is built on a conviction that your brother human being is
telling the truth. I tried to point out to my son that he hurt himself by any lie, and that from a larger viewpoint he hurt the world. I think he understood, and I hope that beyond this he realized that in believing in honesty for himself and for others, he also put faith in living with a certain amount of courage, because telling the truth is often not easy.
To me, truth implies that I am willing to face the consequences of my acts. Certainly there are many immediate embarrassments I could get out by lying. But in doing so, I would have evaded the mistake that made the lie necessary. It is better to give myself some definition, to have the situation in my control, rather than let the situation control me. In lying I would be admitting that the problem is too big for me and must avoid it through a lie. But if I believe that the essential wonder of man
is his ability to reckon with his environment, I will know that telling the truth means that I am unafraid of pitting myself against any problem. And not the least of the benefits of honesty is the comfort that comes to me in trouble, when I can think: At least I’ve told the truth.
For all these reasons, I pray in the words George Washington used in a letter to Alexander Hamilton: “I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."
There the creed of Richard Tucker, Metropolitan Opera star and Jewish cantor. He lives with his wife and three sons in Great Neck, New York.