This I Believe

Stewart, Irvin


  • Irvin Stewart describes how he believes life resembles a newsreel of a football game: like the camera lens, our perspective is limited to a narrow section of the whole field, even though we are still playing a role in the greater cooperative enterprise.
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And now, This I Believe. A series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Doctor Irvin Stewart became the president of West Virginia University in nineteen-forty-six. Before that he was a teacher and held various government positions as well. He was with the Department of State, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, and during the war was deputy director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. In nineteen-fifty President Truman appointed him chairman of the Temporary Communications Policy Board. Against this background of service, Doctor Irvin Stewart reveals his creed.
I am a football fan. Each fall, I see as many of the West Virginia University football games as I can. Like every other moviegoer, I also see my share of newsreels of football games during the season. In trying to find words for this statement of one of my strong beliefs, I think the analogy of a newsreel of a football game is helpful.
The belief itself is that human life on this Earth has a purpose, and that each of us has a part to play in the realization of that purpose, although our vision is not broad enough to see that part in relation to the whole. Compare the newsreel of a football game. The cameraman may focus his lens upon a single player. I can follow the actions of that player, but I cannot see the other players on the field.
Each is doing something different, but all are contributing to the end result. There are 22 players in a football game. Yet, only one man at a time handles the ball. Sometimes the cameraman misses the ball carrier, and those of us who see only the newsreel have no conception of what is really happening on the playing field.
Similarly, I believe that I have a part in the unfolding of God’s plan for the universe, and that I contribute my part to the realization of that plan, though I cannot see the plan in its entirety. Consequently, I think that I have an obligation to do my best, whatever my role may be. That role may change from time to time, as my abilities are demonstrated, in much the same way that a football player may be shifted from guard to tackle or from end to back, as the developing team requires.
I further believe that life is a cooperative enterprise, just as truly as is a football game. I have an obligation not only to do my best but also to help others to do their best. The final score is a team score. The man who opens the way for the ball carrier has just as big a share in the team score as the man who carries the ball for a touchdown.
I believe that one of the greatest crimes which a man can commit against himself is to set his sights too low in terms of his potential service to his fellows. If I am content to feather my own nest or to take an unfair advantage of others, I am cheating both myself and my fellow man. I have potentialities which must be developed by training, by use, or in some other way. I would be unfair to myself and to others if I pass up opportunities to develop my abilities and to help others to develop their abilities.
In the field of human relations, this generation has scored some of its most conspicuous failures. I know no magic cure for those failures, nor formulas for setting them right. I am sure, however, that there is enough wisdom in the world to have kept them from happening. The hope which I see for the world is that a coming generation will realize upon its potentialities to a greater extent than has this one, and that among its members will be found those who have the intelligence and the devotion to their fellow men to produce a better world.
One of the important things which each generation does is to provide for the education of the next. This may be an unexpressed hope that those who come immediately after us will produce a better world than we have done.
I am in the field of education because I believe that in the schools and colleges of America today, there are the boys and girls who have the potentiality for making great contributions to the unfolding of the purpose for which man has been placed on the Earth.
That was Doctor Irvin Stewart, the president of West Virginia University who lives with his wife and son on the campus in Morgantown.