A Lesson Learned at Midnight

Du Pont, James Q. (James Quinn)


And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. The validity of a viewpoint is usually a matter of perspective, of seeing things in their proper direction. James Q. DuPont was trained at MIT as an electrical engineer. He sharpened his focus on life as a professional photographer for seven years in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. His long experience with the DuPont Company, for which he works, has familiarized him with such varied material mysteries as the manufacture of cellophane, nylon for a pair of ladies’ stockings, and certain aspects of the atomic bomb. During one phase of the Manhattan Project, he was assigned to the huge atomic plant at Hanford, Washington, where sensitive men of science had to turn their talents to the
awful task of perfecting destruction. What truths could a man hold to? Jim Du Pont, who speaks of his beliefs now, had to answer that question for himself.
Ever since one midnight in 1909, when I first heard my mother crying, I have been groping for beliefs to help me through the rough going and confusions of life. My dad’s voice was low and troubled as he tried to comfort Mother. And in their anguish, they both forgot the nearness of my bedroom. And so, I overheard them. I was only seven then, and while their problem of that time has long since been solved and forgotten, the big discovery I made that night is still right with me: life is not all hearts and flowers; indeed it’s hard and cruel for most of us much of the time. We all have troubles,
they just differ in nature, that’s all. And that leads me to my first belief.
I believe the human race is very, very tough—almost impossible to discourage. If it wasn’t, then why do we have such words as “laugh” and “sing” and “music” and “dance”—in the language of all mankind since the beginning of recorded time? This belief makes me downright proud to be a human being.
Next, I believe there is good and evil in all of us. Thomas Mann comes close to expressing what I’m trying to say to you with his carefully worded sentence about the “frightfully radical duality” between the brain and the beast in man—in all of us.
This belief helps me because so long as I remember that there are certain forces of evil ever present
in me—and never forget that there is also a divine spark of goodness in me, too—then I find the “score” of my bad mistakes at the end of each day is greatly reduced. Forewarned of evil, in other words, is half the battle against it.
I believe in trying to be charitable, in trying to understand and forgive people, especially in trying to forgive very keen or brilliant people. A man may be a genius, you know, but he can still do things that practically break your heart.
I believe most if not all of our very finest thoughts and many of our finest deeds must be kept to ourselves alone—at least until after we die. This used to confuse me. But now I realize that by their
very nature, these finest things we do and then cannot talk about are a sort of, well, secret preview of a better life to come.
I believe there is no escape from the rule of life that we must do many, many little things to accomplish even just one big thing. This gives me patience when I need it most.
And then I believe in having the courage to be yourself. Or perhaps I should say, to be honest with myself. Sometimes this is practically impossible, but I’m sure I should always try.
Finally, and most important to me, I do believe in God. I’m sure there is a very wise and wonderful Being who designed, constructed, and operates this existence as we mortals know it: this universe with
its galaxies and spiral nebulae, its stars and moons and planets and beautiful women, its trees and pearls and deep green moss—and its hopes and prayers for peace.
You have heard the creed of James Q. Du Pont, a member of the DuPont Company and a citizen of Wilmington, Delaware, who respects the worlds of both science and religion and bridges their contradictions with knowledge, understanding and faith.