This I Believe

Agard, Walter R. (Walter Raymond)

  • Walter Agard, Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin and former President of the American Classical League, describes his boyhood practice of gazing at the stars, enthralled by the universal order they represented, and states his beliefs in justice, equality, human achievement in the arts and literature, diversity, tolerance, and the value of education. Audio also contains an Adverti... read more
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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. Walter R. Agard, since 1927, has been Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin. A past president of the American Classical League, he is the author of What Democracy Meant to the Greeks and Classical Myths in Sculpture. With this rich knowledge of the past as a background, he now tells his own personal philosophy. Professor Walter R. Agard.
When I was 12 years old, I often risked pneumonia looking out from a skylight in our attic, in order to get to know the winter stars. I never outlived the exhilaration of those nights and the feeling of mingled humility and pride I had thenÑhumility before such magnitude, clarity, and beauty; pride in being a part of that universal order. Ever since that time, like the Psalmist, I have believed in the value of looking at the stars, actually and symbolically, and of trying to relate as best I can my fragmentary life to that total pattern.
From my latest study of history, literature, and philosophy, as well as first-hand experience in many parts of the world, I have come to believe deeply in certain human relationships.
I believe in fair play, that every person deserves to be treated on the basis of his character and ability, regardless of his color, race, religion, or opinions differing from mine. his injustice to him and to the community to which he may make his contribution.
I believe in enjoying and encouraging individual differences. They make life more interesting and give the promise of progress. And I believe that generosity and kindness are more rewarding than selfishness and hatred. If we are to produce happier and more creative individuals in societies and avoid the disasters which threaten us, we must rely a great deal on intelligent planning.
But the exercise of intelligence requires the free enterprise of men's minds and constant vigilance against the opposing forces of prejudice and fanaticism.
In a world which has seen so much suffering in justice and ugliness, I have come to believe more and more strongly in the health-giving function of art. When I've been worried or discouraged, I have been able to find a refuge in music, architecture, sculpture, and literature, a refuge from which I have emerged with fresh strength, poise, and courage. Some artists have succeeded in doing what workers in other fields have seldom done.
They have created unity and harmony, realized an aspect of perfection, given us insight into what the rest of our life might be if it could be organized with similar sensitiveness and coherence.
Finally, being a teacher, I believe in the value of education, not just to give us facts or train us in skills, but chiefly to enable us to develop wide interests and sympathies, and to weave the fragments of our knowledge into a pattern which makes life glow with meaning. The most effective way of doing this, I believe, is to become well acquainted, through studying the past as well as the present, with some great men, some great ideas, some great institutions, until we catch the vision of what greatness of spirit is.
"This Athens of ours was made great," said Pericles to his Greek countrymen twenty-four hundred years ago, "by men with the soldier's courage, the wise man's understanding of his duty, the good man's self-discipline in doing it." So with us today, to develop brave, wise, and responsible citizens is, I believe, the chief goal of our education and the way of life we cherish.
That was Professor Walter R. Agard, Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin.