This I Believe

Ziebarth, E. W.


  • E.W. Ziebarth describes being challenged in high school to write out his beliefs and finds that, years later, his beliefs are just as difficult to pin down; nevertheless, he firmly believes in freedom, the worth and dignity of the individual, and the need to receive generalizations and proproganda with a healthy dose of skepticism.
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And now, This I Believe. A series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Maturity is a continuing process. Professor E. W. Ziebarth of the University of Minnesota, an expert in the technique of speech and radio education, holds that men’s minds grow in proportion to their exposure to fresh ideas. After exposing himself to many in many parts of the world he reveals his personal beliefs.
The title of this program has a very special meaning for me. I remember vividly how, as a high school boy, I once expressed skepticism about a point made by one of my teachers. He was a very
wise man, and instead of taking me to task for my discourtesy, he said “You’ve often told me what you do not believe. I should like sometime to know what you do believe.” I was startled and, I’m ashamed to say, a little irritated. Of course I knew what I believed. Any sensible person did. So that night the lights in my room burned long after my bedtime. I decided to write a paper entitled This I Believe. I’d show that instructor how mature my judgment really was.
Well, I got as far as the title. I set it down at the top of the page but somehow the words didn’t flow, the paper remained distressingly blank. I was discovering to my amazement and deep humiliation what many another has discovered: that my system of beliefs was by no means clear, precise, or
systematic. It was a real shock to discover that I had substituted skepticism and criticism for a pattern of values. And I highly resolved that if anyone ever again asked me what I did believe, I’d be able to tell him. And yet, now that Edward R. Murrow raises this question once again almost twenty years later, I find that it’s still difficult to put these beliefs into words. But I have seen enough of the loss of freedom in various parts of the world to emphasize its values both for the individual and for his group. And so, when I say to myself, these things I do deeply believe, I’m likely to list first an abiding faith in the principles of a genuinely free society. Not only freedom for those who believe as I do, for that would be no real freedom at all, but the kind which allows for open
competition in the marketplace of ideas. I believe that when freedom is lost anywhere, there is a loss everywhere. It cannot be isolated; it knows no national frontiers. And eternal vigilance is not the only price of freedom. A part of the price is our willingness to accept that full responsibility, which is basic to all meaningful freedom.
I have found, too, that a belief in the dignity and worth of those individuals with whom I’m in daily touch is, in my case at least, essential to living a reasonably rich, full, and happy life. And I have a deep and abiding faith that over the generations and the centuries, the people are likely to be wiser than those who think themselves wiser than the people. I believe strongly in the need for extending the
frontiers of knowledge and information. A man’s right to believe in something of which he has never heard is only a painful illusion. And freedom from ignorance, prejudice, and fear are among those freedoms I cherish.
I believe that for each of us some skepticism is an infinitely healthy thing, that we should before accepting a generalization say, at least to ourselves, What is the evidence. Do I believe this because it seems logical, because it’s been demonstrated by experiment, because I believe in the inherent wisdom and judgment of the man who says it’s so? Or do I simply accept it because it’s the fashionable thing to believe? Those of my friends who are least serene and most unhappy, I think, are those who believe nothing at all; who say, “In these days of propaganda and of the big lie, there is nothing in
which I can believe.” That attitude seems to me to be fully as dangerous as one which allows the individual to be blown and buffeted in all directions by every breeze of opinion which strikes him. However I would also agree with Emerson, that “truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men.”
That was the creed of a teacher, who has also distinguished himself as a radio news analyst: The University of Minnesota’s Professor E.W. Ziebarth.