This I Believe

Vierheller, George P.


  • George Vierheller describes his beliefs in the importance of individual achievement, self-improvement, service to others, family, and friendship.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. “Mr. Zoo” is the name that identifies George P. Vierheller, the director of the St. Louis Zoological Gardens. Until the age of thirty-six he led a rather humdrum life as a telegrapher. He and the Morse code came to a parting of the ways when he suffered “telegrapher’s thumb.” He became the secretary of the zoological board of control and it was not long before he moved out to the zoo. That was thirty-three years ago but the slender, wiry zoo director with his ruddy complexion, white hair and bright blue eyes never seems to grow tired of watching, talking about, and showing visitors the animals and shows in his garden. Here is George Vierheller.
In this era of bewildering conflicts between nations, and even between factions within our own nation, I find it difficult to know to what truisms in my thinking I wish to give the label, “This I believe.” So often these days, one’s most ardent beliefs are either pushed aside or modified by the very force of someone else’s disbelief. But when I tune out the static of the age in which we live, I do find some clear-cut fundamentals that have been, and still are, the code of my life.
I believe in the individual, and I believe in opportunity. I believe that in spite of the keenly competitive nature of present day society, each one of us, given the proper freedom of choice and incentive, can reach the top of his own capability wave if he so wishes.
I believe, too, that the inner satisfaction stimulated by striving for the accomplishment peak can often out shadow the urge to grasp for monetary reward, alone, and can decrease the expectation of high pay for inferior workmanship. I have tried to encourage and to praise my employees whenever possible. I believe that much of my personal success, and the success of the St. Louis Zoo, has been achieved by my belief in the men who work for me.
Although there must be a beginning somewhere from which we move, I believe that a degree of discontent is healthy. Once, when I was much younger and applying for one of my first jobs, the man who was interviewing me said,
“This is the opening we have. If you are completely satisfied with it, you are not the man we want.” I believe the urge to improve is vital to a well-adjusted life. The things that have been done can always be bettered. One’s inner self and one’s work should never become stagnant. To me, a life that follows a horizontal wave, showing no growth and no change, could be a living death.
I also believe in service. A desire to serve something—one’s community, one’s church, one’s chosen work—is, to me, a requirement of being alive. My father used to say that he did each day’s work as if, on that day, he was proving his fitness to hold his job. His philosophy to serve impressed me when I was a child, and I think I have always tried to follow it.
I believe that more knowledge can often be acquired by sugarcoating the source of it, than by cold statements or representations. Old time zoos told, in their way, just as much about the variances and awesomeness of nature, but they drove the people away. We, by adding pleasure to our educational features, have brought visitors from many parts of the world to us.
I believe in the family. Mine has encouraged me to grow and to look upon each day as a rung on a ladder leading to something new. And finally, I believe in friendship. We cannot live this life alone. I like people. I like to do things for people. I believe it is good to have life around me. Perhaps that is why I have liked working with animals. I feel that my profession has helped me to give of myself to life.
Those were the beliefs of George P. Vierheller the director of the zoological gardens in his native St. Louis.