This I Believe

McEwen, Robert Ward

  • Robert McEwen describes his faith in people that he developed from working with young people in education and his belief in the adaptability of people in a dynamic universe.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Robert Ward McEwen studied for the Ministry but decided that he could be of greater service in teaching. His distinguished career in education would seem to justify that decision. For ten years he taught philosophy and religion, and later served as a college librarian. For the past four years he has been president of Hamilton College at Clinton, New York. Here is Dr. McEwen.
I believe in people, in the indomitable, striving, experimenting, ambitious, ongoing human race. Carl Sandburg, bard of the Midwestern valleys where I was reared, writes, “The people will stick around for a long time yet, you wait and see.” Elsewhere he describes himself and other people as
“earthworms,” and “riders to the moon.”
“We are earthworms, subject to disease and death, too often cut down before our work is done. But that cannot discourage us, for we are also riders to the moon, intent on goals whose achievement we seldom live to see, forever dissatisfied with things as they are, forever dreaming dreams of things to come and building them into reality, as we can.”
You can’t live with college students for years and not believe in people, or at least in what people can become. And so I believe in a society in which people are free to develop their capabilities to the fullest extent. People are not equal, not all the same, thank goodness. But they all deserve equality
of opportunity, and most of them grow under opportunity and make responsible use of it.
It is because I believe in people that I get thoroughly angry when it is said that college students should be taught some one authoritarian line of thought—in politics or religion, or any other field. They are not children but young adults, freed for a few years of training in free and straight thinking before they become leaders in a nation founded on the daring faith that the people can make decisions for themselves.
I believe that people live most fully only as they think about the important things in life. The aim of education is always a human being, a man who does his share of the world’s work illumined by thinking
about it, thinking that shows him its meaning in relation to the work of others, shows him where he stands on the wave of the future. Such an examined life is the life worth living, the reason for the schools and colleges I believe so important to our welfare.
In all this, I assume my belief in change, as well as in continuing verities. I see our human world like our natural world, as dynamic not static; as alive, moving, wearing out and ever renewing itself; the changing stage on which we individuals play our part and hope we leave a better stage for those who come on next. I can’t say where or when I found this faith in people and in what they can become. It was implicit in the minister’s home where I was born and reared, but I think it is implicit in America.
Certainly I can point to no great moment or vivid experience that has dramatically shaped my belief, but I know it is rooted in Christianity. The center of our faith is that, “the word became flesh and dwelt among us;” that the great God of the universe could be, and was, incarnate in the human being. That belief, as I see it, has inspired and inspires men to believe that “earthworms” can be “riders to the moon;” that our dreams and struggles for a nobler life lived in a better world are not the fantasies of lost children but the privilege and duty of responsible children of God.
I do not know the answers to all the riddles of the Sphinx, nor do I have beliefs about many questions
that trouble my mind and the minds of others. But in what I do believe, I find light to live by.
There the creed of Robert Ward McEwen, president of Hamilton College, one of this country’s oldest and most distinguished colleges for men.