This I Believe

Hottel, Althea K. (Krantz)


  • Althea Hottel remembers an influential poem and advice from her grandmother and how these things have shaped her and impacted her experience in life and religion.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Now the views of a wise and warm-hearted mother, so to speak, to 4,000 girls, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dean of Women, Mrs. Althea K. Hottel.
Even now, in these times, my whole philosophy pretty much stems from three things I learned as a girl. The first is a poem. My mother gave it to me when I was about 8, and it was in illuminated letters, but I’ve never discovered who wrote it. I framed it and hung it in my room. Later, I took it to college. When I got married, I brought it to our home. And I don’t know how many students at the university have read it since, and it may sound syrupy to some people, but the thoughts it expresses to
me are salted with good sense. And it’s called A Prayer For Everyday, and it goes like this:
Let me not shut myself within myself,
Nor dedicate my days to petty things.
Let there be many windows in my life,
The entrance to my heart a door that swings,
Through which I go and come with eyes that smile
And others gladly come to me.
That happily I may learn the thing worthwhile:
The art of human hospitality.
And it ends:
Save me from self-preferment
That would seek its cloistered place,
Safe, sheltered from the strife,
But purposeful and calm and sweet and sane.
Lord, keep me in the living room of life.
And the second thing was a fragment of philosophy my grandmother gave me. She said, “Make the most of
all that comes and the least of all that goes.” In other words, try to seize every opportunity but best don’t cry over spilt milk.
And my grandmother was responsible for a third lesson. I always went to Sunday school, but in college I became confused somewhat about my religious beliefs and when they conflicted with the things I was learning in science. And when a Sunday school class asked me to speak on my religious beliefs, I told my grandmother I couldn’t do it because I’d be a hypocrite. And then she said this: “He who plants a seed and looks for it to push the sod, he trusts in God.” The more I thought about it, the easier it became for me to get my religion and science straight with each other, and I made the speech.
I’ve come to feel that people and human experience are vastly important. I believe in the dignity of man and in the equality of opportunity and fighting racial prejudice. I’m not a crusader, but I seem to have been thrown into the middle of many controversies, and these beliefs have never failed me.
And then in 1946, I attended a World Student Conference in Switzerland, the first of its kind after the War. The purpose of it was to try to find ways for spiritual values to help people in their everyday lives. It was a strange gathering. It was tense and formal, at first. Delegates came from Germany and Japan, our recent enemies, and they were uneasy.
Gradually, the atmosphere melted into friendliness, and on the last night around the campfire by Lake
Thun, we all locked arms and sang songs; and I was asked to repeat my poem, the prayer about “the living room of life.” And afterwards, delegates besieged me for translations, so they could take the poem home. To me, it was a glowing proof that no matter what tongue people may speak, men’s hearts can use the same language.
That was Dean Althea K. Hottel of Pennsylvania, whose internationally esteemed career as an educator and a woman is a living example of her beliefs.