Alfred Benesch, member of the Cleveland Board of Education, describes the inspiration for his dedication to his community and some of the rewards in addition to why it is important for him and other people to engage in social and community service to.
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. Alfred A. Benesch is a leading Cleveland attorney and member of the Board of Education. He was born in Cleveland seventy-five years ago, the son of parents who had emigrated from Czechoslovakia. His long record of public service has grown steadily over the years since his graduation from Harvard at the beginning of the century. In addition to the many civic posts he has held, Mr. Benesch has been active in numerous private educational and welfare agencies, and is the only Clevelander to win four Distinguished Service awards. Here is Alfred A. Benesch.
In my freshman year at college, I came under the influence of one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. She was a volunteer social worker throughout her long life. It was the impress of her striking personality, and her selfless devotion to the cause of the underprivileged, that have motivated my conduct these more than fifty years.
From her I learned many salutary lessons. I learned that the greatest thing in life is not a brilliant mind but rather a comprehending spirit, an understanding heart, a sort of power to take the world inside yourself and be one with it. I learned that service to others is the foundation of happiness and the real goal for the common welfare. I learned, too, that performance of duty is a sacred obligation; social responsibility not a mere phrase but a creed; and sympathy not an
attitude of mind but a motive to action. That life calls us not merely to enjoy the fruits of earth but to exalt in heights attained after the toil of climbing.
Years of public and communal service have taught me that what we keep, we lose; what we give makes us rich. Perhaps I can express my convictions and my belief no better than by quoting the words of that unforgettable hero of the spirit, Walther Rathenau. "We are here not for the sake of possessions, nor for the sake of power, nor for the sake of happiness. We are here that we may elucidate the divine elements in the human personality.
When the late Mrs. Russell Sage was tendered a civic dinner in recognition of her munificent benefactions given in memory
of her husband, and now known as the Russell Sage Foundation, she responded with characteristic and becoming modesty. "I deserve no encomium and no eulogy for my action, because all that I have done, all that I can do, is so little, so insignificant, in comparison with what needs doing." What a challenge, and what an opportunity.
Perhaps my greatest satisfactions in life have come from being able to help young people in planning a career, in going to college, and in making successful adjustments. I have in mind particularly a young man whom I encouraged in his art studies and assisted in pursuing a course at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. When he became affluent and eminent in his profession, he endowed a scholarship for the benefit of art students in need of financial aid. I also have in mind
another young friend, who became one of the foremost prosthetists in America, a recognized leader in his profession, and even internationally famous. Can there be greater satisfaction than this?
I have always felt very deeply that whatever I am, and whatever I may become, I owe in large measure to the community of which I am an integral part. The community serves to mold and fashion my activities and my character. It is incumbent upon me, therefore, so to regulate my conduct as to do only that which redounds to the welfare of my community. The great Pericles admirably expressed my creed in his memorable exhortation to the people of Athens: "Think what Athens may become and be worthy of it."
Those were the beliefs of Alfred A. Benesch, a lawyer and educator in Cleveland, Ohio.