This I Believe

Williams, Paul B.


  • Paul Williams describes his belief that what makes humans different from animals is their ability to communicate, exchange ideas, form opinions, and reach judgements--characteristics which support the progress of civilization.
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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. Paul B. Williams has been a newspaperman all of his working life. He joined the news staff of the Utica Press right after his graduation from Hamilton College in 1908. Since 1922, this native of Albion, New York has been the editor of the Utica Daily Press. He has also given generously of his time to many community projects. Here is Paul Williams.
During some forty years in the newspaper business, I have spent most of my time dealing with people. Often they were raw. Sometimes they were wonderful. And because I believe so deeply in their abilities and their honor, I find that a statement of my creed inevitably takes the form of thinking out loud about people. Most of us have probably wondered about the universe. I know I have. Thus far, no one has told us whether any of our companions in space is inhabited by anything which we could compare to our own existence upon this Earth, human beings. I choose to believe that we are something special. Call us Homo sapiens, mankind, or just people; here we are. And what is our distinction? It's a good question.
The first thing that separates us from the animal kingdom is that we can speak. A dog can follow a trail for miles that a man can't smell. A
good horse can out-pull several men. A homing pigeon can be carried a hundred miles in a cage, be released, and find its way quickly to its home loft. A fly can walk upside down on a ceiling. A tiny hummingbird poised to dip its beak into a flower makes a modern airplane look like a clumsy contrivance.
But here's the difference, as I see it. If this earth were inhabited only by dogs, horses, and birds, it still would be uncivilized. The thing that has enabled us of the human race to achieve what we call "progress" has been our ability to talk. That means, to exchange ideas and information. And when those have been passed from person to person, and from one generation to another, civilization appears. The factor
there which again sets us apart from the other animals is this: Once we have learned how to exchange ideas and information, the human mind asserts its most important function--it begins to sort out and accept or discard information or ideas that do not square with the experience of individuals. That means we have been learning to form opinions, and by testing them against experience have reached into the realm of reason and judgment.
Since my work has required me to stick to facts as closely as possible, I have acquired little skill and philosophy. I have observed that different people have different ideas about religion or the hereafter, for example. I am content to observe, also, that history tells a consistent story of mankind's progress toward better days. I am certainly a different man from my father, who was born in a log cabin in
western New York after the Civil War. My son is different from me. He can fly a Navy Corsair. His two boys are different from either of us. They are quite distinctive little individuals whose future no man can foretell. But because I have seen so many people, have known so many of them fairly well, and have learned to respect their ability and character when the going is hard, I'll stake my future on the little boys and all the other children of our people. After all, we have to rely on them to keep the human race going. And that's where our future lies.
That was Paul B. Williams, the editor of the Utica Daily Press in upstate New York.