Freedom and a Piece of String
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Conyers Read is an eminent historian and scholar, and was professor at the University of Pennsylvania until his retirement two years ago. He is active in the Council of Foreign Relations, and has served as president of the American Historical Association. Here is the personal philosophy of Dr. Conyers Read.
As I grow old, I decide not to bother about things I can do nothing about. When I was young I spent much time in search of the key which would unlock all doors. I never found it and have given up looking for it. I do not regret the
search. It brought me into close acquaintance with a large company of good and great men and women. But, so far as I am concerned, I find it more fruitful to direct my attention to those elements in this mysterious world around us which are, or may be, subject to human control, those elements in which the creative force is the mind of man. There, if anywhere on this earth, lies the hope of the future. For that reason, I believe, first of all, that it is our business to provide an environment in which the mind of man can enjoy the maximum amount of freedom: to think, to exchange thoughts with his fellows, to produce the best that is in him. I admit no distinction between the white mind and the black mind, or the yellow mind or the brown mind, or the mind male or the mind female. Wherever there is a mind there is the potential of great and good things.
Freedom of the mind I put first of all. But I recognize that men live together in society and that social obligations transcend individual interests. No one man's freedom can be allowed at the expense of another man's freedom. What we have to aim at is the maximum of individual freedom consistent with the larger social interest.
I believe that the finest exercise of freedom is in the service of one's fellow men.
I believe that we spend too much of our leisure watching other people work and play, at the ball parks, in the theater, on the screen. In my opinion, the major satisfactions of life proceed from the exercise of our own creative impulses. For this reason I regret the increasing regimentation and mechanization of life as a menace to human growth. It seems to me, as I
look back upon my own boyhood, that I got more fun out of a piece of string than my grandchildren get out of their more elaborate and much more expensive gadgets. You can really do things with a piece of string.
I believe in devotion to causes outside ourselves which we recognize as more important than ourselves and in the service of which we are cheerfully ready to sacrifice our individual welfare. This, in its highest form becomes religion, though many men find their God in strange places and in strange company.
I believe that our immortality will be measured in terms of what, through our own works or our own influence, we pass on to those who follow us.
I believe that there are standards of right and wrong, though I think these standards are too often confused with what is socially proper or socially expedient. I believe that these standards can be and should be defined. I regard it as one of the important functions of educators, from the pulpit, in the classroom and on the air, to present, explain and support these standards. I believe that a life lived in accordance with these standards will be a happy and a fruitful life.
"It is not life that matters, but the courage we bring to it."
Those were the personal beliefs of Conyers Read. They were chosen from the beliefs broadcast in the past two years for inclusion in the new This I Believe book, now at your bookstore.