This I Believe

Strickling, George F. (George Franklin)

  • George Strickling recounts how the rowdiness of a regiment of American soldiers in England limited his own freedom to sight-see as a soldier, and describes his belief in good manners.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. George F. Strickling is a music educator, conductor, composer and author. Twenty-three years ago, prompted by a desire to bring good music to more people, he left a secure and comfortable job on a college faculty to teach music at Cleveland Heights High School in Ohio. Since that time, he has made that school's a capella choir one of this country's outstanding musical organizations, thus achieving a goal which inspired him to make the change. This is George Strickling's creed.
Not so very long ago, I found myself with a few idle moments, which is something quite rare
in my very active musical life. I went up to our third floor, where I found myself opening an old army trunk, which had accompanied me to France in the First War. Since that time, it has become a catch-all for this, that, and the other.
At the bottom of this trunk, I found an old, forgotten type-written manuscript, which I had not seen for years. The occasion of its writing was a more or less common one. For my graduation from high school in 1914, I was required to write a lofty and high-sounding essay instead of delivering the traditional oration.
Looking backwards, I was amazed at the temerity of the youth of seventeen tackling such a subject. As I
reread this youthful literary effort, my mind wandered deviously over the years that had passed, and I started to analyze a topic which absorbed my attention back in that last semester of my senior high school year.
To begin with, when my regiment was temporarily in England, one of my great disappointments was the fact that we were permitted to visit the historical city of Winchester only in company formation. So we formed up, marched to the beautiful cathedral, broke ranks, went inside, came out, formed ranks, marched to the nearby college, went inside, came out, and formed ranks again. That was the routine for our sightseeing tour.
Why such a rigid, uninspired viewing of such historical scenes? Well, it seems that a few months prior to our arrival, the men of another American division had made considerable nuisances of themselves as individuals, such as removing hinges, locks, and other items from buildings as souvenirs, or shooting holes in King Alfred's cast iron coat tails on the square. This license of individual action brought penalties on all succeeding troops by placing them under strict discipline away from camp.
My vocation as a teacher has kept me in the vortex of high school and college youth for the past 35 years. Contacts with these young adults are very close. In my homeroom a few years ago came a sophomore boy with no inhibitions whatsoever. He was noisy, disrespectful, utterly selfish, and disgusting. In
time, this homeroom became the outstanding boy's group in the school because of its unusual achievements in scholarship, athletics, and other school activities. Gradually, the boy began to have the rough edges ground away, and he became less self-centered and more disposed to consider the points-of-view of others.
The day before his graduation, he came to my office to thank me for my patience and forbearance with him, and he said I should have kicked him downstairs dozens of times. I told him how pleased and proud I was of the way he had transformed himself during the three years we were together. That same evening, he was arrested with a dozen other high school boys for a panty raid at a private girl's school.
These were some of the widely divergent thoughts which came to me, as I reconsidered that phase of human behavior of which I had written almost forty years ago. Oh, the title of that manuscript was Character, The Grandest Thing in The World.
This summer, I will be in England standing in the same place on the Winchester College campus where I stood in 1918. Around me will be seventy of my high school choir girls and boys. To them, I will point to three, very important words, engraved in stone over a building entrance years and years ago: "Manners Maketh Man." This I believe.
That was George F. Strickling of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He has brought the gift of great music to thousands of people throughout the middle West.