This I Believe

Hersholt, Jean

  • Jean Hersholt describes his belief that human relationships are "problems of arithmetic"--where there are few people, individuals realize their responsibility to help their neighbors, but in crowded areas, the responsibility is passed along to someone else--and he notes that the world would be a better place if people remembered that they were in fact neighbors.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. After over 16 years of acting the part of Dr. Christian, the kindly old country physician of CBS radio, Jean Hersholt is so closely identified with the part that even his friends have trouble keeping their personalities separated. After achieving stardom [in his native Denmark], he successfully toured this country in repertory. But when the tour ended, he found that in order to start a new career in Hollywood, he had to begin at the bottom. His ascent was rapid, and by 1937, when he became radio's Dr. Christian, he had appeared in fifty pictures, starring in many of them. In real life, Jean Hersholt is as well loved by his community as the character he portrays. In addition to his
reputation as a philanthropist and civic figure, he is known as a scholar, painter and author. This is Jean Hersholt's creed.
I believe human relations basically are problems of arithmetic. For years I have been preaching "think of your neighbor," and I certainly can claim no originality in this. But do people think of their neighbors? Not nearly enough. I've traveled over the sparsely populated area of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and other places in the Western United States, and noted how much kinder people are to each other when there's no crowd. If my car breaks down, for example, in the Nevada desert, I'm certain to get help from the first car which comes along. This is because in the desert, it is still man
against nature. The first motorist must help you, for there might not be another car for hours. The first motorist stops because he realizes you are his responsibility. But in a big city, I've seen an ill person lying on the sidewalk. Until a policeman is summoned, probably no one will try to help him. The crowd moves on. None feels it's his responsibility. Human life seems cheaper because there is so much of it.
I might draw a parallel in the matter of cigarettes, for example, although I'm a pipe smoker. Again, arithmetic rules the situation. If you have a carload of cigarettes or carton or full pack, you may even throw away a cigarette or you gladly give one to anyone who asks. They're cheap in your mind
because there are so many. But if you only have one cigarette, the chances are you will safeguard it and nurse it and save it. Scarcity makes for dearness.
I believe I should think of all men as my neighbors, whether I live in a crowded city, a small town or in the desert, for instance--where if I really have only one neighbor I will cherish him, for I will need him and he will need me. This is a very personal philosophy and I project it outwardly this way. This modern world has been shrunk by transportation and communications to a size where anyone could come to your doorstep in a few hours. It is when people and nations fail to realize they really need one another, the troubles begin. We are a civilization stranded in the desert with only one last
cigarette. We must have help from the next car coming down the road. We must, in our mind, give help if we are in the next car coming down the road. We must realize we are neighbors and treat each other as neighbors.
This I believe: that the thought, "I am my brother's keeper," has emerged from being an old saying or a nice thought into living reality, now. For unless we get into our minds the thought that human life is dear and scarce, it will surely become the ultimate degree of scarcity. It will cease to exist.
There the beliefs of Jean Hersholt. He and his wife, who recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, live in Los Angeles, California.