This I Believe

Wilcox, Walter F.

  • Walter Wilcox describes his belief that the world has steadily gotten better during his lifetime, and his belief that individuals must create order out of the personal chaos in which they find themselves, with truth and freedom as necessary components of this task.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Walter F. Wilcox is statistician and teacher, whose distinguished reputation is based on years of untiring service to his profession. He has been a member of the International Statistical Institute since 1899 and serves as its honorary president. Now in the 93rd year of a full and active life, Walter F. Wilcox shares with us his guiding beliefs.
I have been asked to state what I believe, or in other words, my creed. It consists mainly of selections from the writings of others woven into a loose fabric on which I have come to stand. Seventy years ago, a college teacher told us "a man's creed is a monument set up to show where he stopped
thinking." He might have gone on to add: you are supposed to be scholars and a scholar never stops thinking, so you can set up no such a monument as a destination, but only as a temporary camp carrying, perhaps, a date to show when you tarried a while at that point.
I believe that each person is born into what seems to him a chaos and given his share in mankind's task of transforming that chaos into a cosmos. I believe that modern science is beginning to reveal the skeleton of the cosmos but that emotion and action are needed to give it flesh and life. I believe that the aim of all life is "life more abundant," that life on this planet has steadily become richer, and that in this tiny corner of the cosmos and this bit of unending time there has been irregular progress
towards a more abundant life.
I believe with John Dewey, that "Humanity cherishes ideals which are neither rootless nor completely embodied in existence," and that these cherished ideals form the basis for man's conception of a God. I believe with Goldwin Smith, that "Above all nations is humanity." I believe that man receives, through heredity and environment, influences which his own efforts modify, and passes them on to uncounted future generations. Or, as Browning words it, "All that is at all / lasts ever past recall / Earth changes / but thy soul and God stand sure / What entered into thee / that was, is, and shall be / time's wheel runs back or stops / Potter and clay endure."
I believe that human freedom to experiment and to initiate is the most potent of all the forces working for the progress of mankind. I believe that the spread of human freedom and the resultant decrease of fear, at least until 1914, form the best evidence of man's advance in civilization. I believe with Becker, that "All values are inseparable from the love of truth and the search for it," and that truth can be discovered only if the mind is free; and with Justice Holmes, that "Truth is best discovered and defended in the marketplace of ideas."
I believe with Johnson, that "A man should keep his friendships in constant repair." I believe with Becker, that "Knowledge and the power it gives should be used for the relief of man's estate," and that
the best form of government yet devised is one which seeks to be "a government of the people, by the people, for the people." I believe with Sherrington, that "We have, because human, an inalienable prerogative of responsibility which we cannot devolve, as once was thought even upon the stars. We can share it only with each other."
That was Walter F. Wilcox of Ithica, New York. For 40 years, he taught statistics and economics at Cornell University and, in the more than 20 years which have followed, has continued to make valuable contributions to his profession.