This I Believe

Jacob, Betty


  • Betty Jacob describes her belief in the brotherhood of humanity, her disillusionment, and the final reaffirmation of her belief sparked by her work with international citizens via the United Nations.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Now, the convictions of an incredibly energetic young Pennsylvania woman who has made the welfare of children everywhere one of her major concerns. Betty Jacob, an executive on the staff of the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund.
My husband and I have two boys in grade school and a daughter in junior high. I keep asking myself over and over again, how can we help them learn to believe in themselves and in the future when every day the world seems to be threatening to blow itself up? Some of my beliefs, the most dramatic ones I suppose, have broken under the strain of reality. Others have held and are actually stronger from the test of experience.
Like nearly everybody else, I learned that golden text, ‘love thy neighbor as myself,’ when I was a little girl. It was a pretty phrase, but the words didn’t really say anything to me for a long, long time. Then suddenly, they seemed to be the answer to everything. The world is a brotherhood.
Just out of college, I went abroad in a rosy flush of goodwill to meet my foreign brothers and sisters, so to speak, to work with them for a new world. A great vitality seized me and made everything seem possible.
Then came the awakening. The idea, like a cut flower, didn’t stay fresh. It faded and died in the doubletalk of dictators and ordinary politicians, and the conniving suspicions of governments. I complained to a friend that if this idea was the truth, why didn’t it flourish? And I remember his answer: “How do you know truth won’t triumph? None of us knows,” he went on, “when the seeds we sow will sprout or where. Some will be destroyed. But if you’ll recognize the truth in your heart, and try to live the consequences of that truth in your life, the positive effort itself will give your life meaning.
Each life that testifies to a truth in itself is fulfilling a part of the truth. Faith without action is meaningless, but action must be based on faith.” My friend taught me that truth cannot win overnight, but it’s worth living for.
In recent years as a representative of the United Nations, I have traveled through most of the Communist countries of Europe. I talked to farmers and workers, government clerks and doctors, housewives and chauffeurs, all kinds of people. Underneath, their concerns were the same as mine—peace and a future for their children. If I couldn’t pronounce their names or accept their dialectic, I could read the simple hopes and fears in their faces, and I felt a kinship with them as human beings.
And I asked myself, if men like Jesus and Mohammed and Gandhi were all impractical dreamers when they taught that men were brothers, what is the practical alternative?
I realized, with the clarity of shock, that there is no practical alternative. The brotherhood, the unity of man, is not a dream, not if the desires and hopes of ordinary men are recognized. It seems to me that the hope of our very survival lies in teaching ourselves to understand and accept the fact that we are indeed our brother’s keeper.
The best, the only valid answer that I can think of to give my children is to show them as best I can in the lives we lead every day that all men belong to each other.
There, the beliefs of Betty Jacob, a wife and mother from Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and a citizen of the world.