This I Believe

McKeen, John E.

And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. John E. McKeen is a business executive with a scientific background. He started as a control chemist at the Charles Pfizer and Company of Brooklyn. He is now its president. He says the excitement of directing something that may be important to the health of the people is tremendous. The antibiotic research program at Pfizer was under his direction. This culminated in the discovery of Terramycin. It is not surprising that the creed of John McKeen is an optimistic one.
I like to think that a man’s character derives from his beliefs. Some of my own beliefs have come from the experiences and growing understanding brought with the passing years. Still others have
deep roots reaching far back into my childhood days. Together they make up a body of beliefs on which—like any other sincere human being—I am prepared to stand or fall.
In my view, a central belief a man should have is in belief itself. Even as a schoolboy I felt that without belief, or without a striving toward belief, my life would lack meaning and purpose. Everything in my own life has derived from this fundamental realization. Always, too, I have actively believed in the basic goodness and ability of man. That has also been one of the foundation stones of my life.
I believe that a man’s future is limitless. I reject the cynical view that man’s intelligence and ingenuity are bound to become the instruments of his own self-destruction, and I rebel—sometimes almost
with anger—at the notion that there is a deep perversity in mankind which makes it hold cheaply, the life of the individual. On the contrary, I believe there is nothing illusory in our unyielding will to live, even under the most difficult and hopeless circumstances.
From my own personal contact with science, it seems to me that all nature’s incessant striving toward life is dramatically evident. Time and time again, I have seen under laboratory microscopes countless evidences of this deep urge. In fact, it was the observation of the potent, life-protecting forces in tiny microorganisms which led directly to the discovery of many of the great antibiotic wonder drugs, such as Penicillin and Streptomycin and Terramycin. And now we know that some of these same substances
not only can protect life by combating disease, but by speeding the growth of animals they can also increase the supply of life-giving food in a hungry world.
I believe that there is no contradiction between man’s material and his spiritual well being. But I believe equally that mere multiplication of the Earth’s goods will not automatically bring about higher levels of civilization. We need to become more thoughtful in the uses we make of our wealth and the tools that produce it.
I believe that the relationship of the individual to the world is one of responsibility. Each of us is, in effect, an agent or steward of his fellow men. This is not only a godly way of living, it is also
one of practical self interest, since the welfare of the least of us is inseparable from the welfare of all. I believe man must live by deeds rather than by words, by achievement rather than avowal. Most of all I believe that I should live with confidence in myself, in the great human family to which I belong, and in humanity’s capacity to achieve a boundless and bountiful future.
That was John E. McKeen, president of Charles Pfizer and Company in his native Brooklyn.