This I Believe

Potter, Richard C.


  • Richard Potter discusses his closes with nature as a child and his belief that there is much to be gained from living close to nature and more children must be raised with an awareness of nature.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Richard C. Potter has spent most of his life learning the useful and exciting things that nature will teach those who are sensitive and patient enough to learn. For thirty-five years, he was an independent expert in the fields of forestry and conservation, and since 1940, has been curator of the Worcester, Massachusetts Museum of Natural History. In this post, he is able to share with the people of Worcester some of the things he has learned. Now, Richard Potter shares them with us.
I grew up in the small town of Concord, Massachusetts, when such things as radios, automobiles, television sets, and boys' and
girls' clubs were largely unknown. The resources from which I drew outside school came from nature, the country around me. As early as I can remember, Henry David Thoreau, the great naturalist, was held up to us as an example. Thoreau's love of nature was, in Concord, the inheritance of every boy and girl. I followed closely all the excursions of which Thoreau wrote. These experiences gave me a profound and lasting interest and respect for the laws of nature.
I believe that if a child has the fundamental laws of nature interpreted to him in his early years, he will, as an adult, become a finer citizen and secure the tranquility and peace that can be found only in nature. I believe this is a prime necessity in the training of
all children, beginning with my own. I must be aware, and my children must be aware, of the importance of developing ways and means of preserving our natural resources, upon which, as I see it, depends the continued prosperity of our nation.
When our country was pioneering, the greater part of our people lived upon the land. There was still a pioneer atmosphere to my boyhood. I had to adjust my daily life to the weather, the season, the physical needs of the home and group. Every thought, whim, fancy, and developing philosophy of our family were fashioned to the needs and conditions of the day. Population was scarce and scattered, schools were primitive as compared to today, churches and towns were far apart, and we walked to and from school. We lived with nature and grew
to know her every mood. We were conscious of the seasons' change, knew where wildflowers bloomed, birds nested, and wild fruit ripened. We knew when foxes came out of their dens and when the chestnut burs were opened by frost.
I believe in the importance of passing this knowledge along. I believe that children should be made familiar with the passage of the seasons, the characteristics of climate, and the significance of weather. I believe in the charm of landscape, the inspiration of star-lighted skies, the thrill of the robin's and bluebird's return. I believe in the voice of the song sparrow and have reverence for the garden's growth. For me there is substance to the wild fragrance of the mayflower and grape, and a conviction in the murmuring of surf upon the shore.
I believe all these things must be restored to children. With their lives thus enriched by nature, and the necessity to conserve her resources, I believe we can look to a more stable, virile, and intelligent future among men. I believe my task is to try to help bring this about. Toward it, I am devoting and using all the resources and implements given to me in all my long life of work.
Those the beliefs of Richard C. Potter, curator of the Worcester, Massachusetts Museum of Natural History. Not content with Nature inside glass cases, he conducts his own experimental organic farm at his Massachusetts home in Auburn.