The People Know

Landon, Alfred M. (Alfred Mossman)

  • Alfred Landon describes his belief in the ability of people to achieve monumental progress for society, and in the need to maintain a grasp of spiritual and moral truths in the midst of that progress.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Few men could have been as good-humored about so crushing a defeat as Alfred M. Landon met when Republican candidate for the presidency in 1936. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he made a success in the oil business, became the acknowledged leader of progressive Republicans in Kansas, and twice went against the political tide to be elected governor. Here now are the beliefs of Alf Landon.
I believe in people. Their accomplishments as members of the society created through centuries of courageous trial and heartbreaking errors merit belief in individual thinking and the right to do so. Mankind has made astonishing progress in a few millennia. It may be that not all of our boasted progress has been of real value. It may be that we have tried to purchase material well-being at a price too high spiritually. Even so, with all our woes, the civilization of the twentieth century where it prevails gives greater opportunity for the Good Life for all the people than did any of the so-called golden ages of the past, when the powerful few regarded the great masses as little better than mere beasts of burden.
I believe social and political progress does not just happen. We cannot too greatly honor and revere the great men of history, the great reformers, the great leaders. However, it is a sad fact that there have been always as many false prophets as true prophets, as many powerful self-seeking demagogues as selfless, patriotic statesmen, as many ruthless exploiters as benefactors.
The race has made progress only so far as the people have developed the ability to distinguish the false from the true and the will to follow truth at whatever cost.
Two thousand years ago, the world had great philosophers, great culture, great and powerful empires. Then came a meek and lowly man of Judea. The learned and the great rejected Him, but the common people heard Him gladly. The whole course of human history was changed by their acceptance of His teachings.
I believe in the people, not that they are infinitely wise, but that in the main they instinctively believe in fair play, in decency, in justice.
Necessarily, a man must live with others and learn to get along with them first in the family, then in the clan, the tribe, the nation and ultimately the world.
In the family a sense of justice, of trust, of loyalty, and fore-most of all, affection are imperative. It is these traits which give validity to democracy and which are the basis of our faith in the final decisions of the people.
The civilization which we cherish today and in defense of which we will wage uncompromising war, rests upon the ideals of democracy. Democracy, if it be a vital force, must be in the hearts of the people, an instinctive and irresistible demand for liberty and justice for all. Democracy cannot be bestowed upon a nation.
When the people, the common people, are ripe for it, they just naturally take it as the natural inalienable right.
I believe that instinct is in every human heart.
Those were the personal beliefs of former Governor Alf Landon of Kansas, the 1936 Republican candidate for the presidency.