This I Believe

Johnson, Kenneth D.


  • Kenneth Johnson talks of the importance of democracy, freedom and human welfare, and emphasizes the ethical principles that underlie our democratic ideals.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Extending a helping hand to one’s fellow man is more than just a kindly act; it is the basis of social service. Dean Kenneth D. Johnson of the New York School of Social Work, who is a leading proponent of the modern scientific approach to what was once known as charity, has never abandoned the spirit which made it first among the virtues taught by all great religions. Here is what he believes.
As a social worker, I have come to appreciate and be inspired by the spirit of that lesson taught nearly 2000 years ago, the lesson mankind has never learned and, yet, has never quite forgotten:
that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side-by-side with the greatest. To a social worker, democracy recognizes individual human dignity and offers an opportunity to work unceasingly for human happiness. To him there is no last battle, but rather there is always the hope of producing men and women who have the capacity to stand their ground and to meet new situations effectively. It is his firm conviction that a nation’s greatness lies in men, not acres. These are my thoughts, and this I do believe.
To me, our democratic ideals mean an open society in which the opportunity for the growth and development of the individual as a whole person is present, at least within wide latitudes, regardless
of the accident of birth. It is a society that has experienced a dynamic growth, both scientifically and socially. In such a society, we have succeeded in the blending of a free science and a free religion without seeking to bend or control science to an enforced ideological dogma. To all who accept these values, democratic ideals in action and human welfare are synonymous.
As one whose principle concern is with human welfare, I’m acutely conscious of the maladjustments caused by our advances in the mathematical and physical sciences, as compared with our multiple deficiencies in individual, group, community, and national understanding. To be sure, we have made a recognized scientific profession of our charitable impulses and desires, with the aid and assistance of
methods, techniques, and practices distilled from many allied disciplines and social sciences; yet, I cannot help but be aware that there is the clear and present danger of forgetting the ethical basis of our democratic ideals, as we devote ourselves almost exclusively to these scientific studies and discoveries. Were we to forget what we know to be our true values, there would be every justification for T.S. Eliot’s pessimistic prognosis of “a people whose only monument is the asphalt road and a thousand, lost golf balls.”
Chief among these values is our freedom. It is because of my unceasing devotion to the freedom upon which our democracy is founded that I can have faith in tomorrow without any crippling fear or
destructive doubt. I refuse to be influenced by the Cassandras, the Calibans, and the Cains. Ours is the freedom that permitted us to rise this morning our own masters; to travel where we would; to speak out loud to whom we would; to listen to the radio of any nation, unafraid; to know we are not spied upon by any secret police; to read what we wish; to worship God in the manner of our unfettered choice. We know that this freedom is ours because of the men and women who prized it enough to starve and freeze and suffer and labor to make it our heritage. “We live by an invisible sun within us,” wrote a wise and great physician of the time of Queen Elizabeth. By that bright gleam of faith, we are free men and women, and we intend to remain free.
That was the creed of Dean Kenneth Johnson of the New York School of Social Work, an educator and a humanitarian.