This I Believe

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This I Believe was a five-minute CBS Radio Network program hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow from 1951 to 1955. A half-hour European version of This I Believe ran from 1956 to 1958 over Radio Luxembourg.

The show encouraged both famous and everyday people to write short essays about their own personal motivation in life and then read them on the air. This I Believe became a cultural phenomenon that stressed individual belief rather than religious dogma. Its popularity both developed and waned within the era of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Cold War.

The show was revived by Dan Gediman and Jay Allison on NPR from 2005-2009, and subsequently by Preston Manning on Canada's CBC Radio One in 2007. Essays that appear on the show are available free of charge at its website.

In 2009 and 2010, some of the original 1951 This I Believe programs were rebroadcast on PRI's Bob Edwards Weekend. Since late 2010, all new This I Believe segments have been broadcast on Bob Edwards Weekend.

History of the show[edit]

Background[edit]

The idea for This I Believe flowed from both the WWII broadcasting experiences of Edward R. Murrow (who had spent of the latter 1930s and most of 1940s in the United Kingdom and continental Europe), and the emerging Cold War hostility with the Soviet Union.

During Murrow's stay in London he had become a friend of the WWII British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who had an American mother and British father), and this enabled him to introduce Churchill to William S. Paley, who was his boss at CBS. During WWII Paley spent much of his time in London working in the Psychological Warfare Branch of the Office of War Information (OWI), which included redirecting the transmitters of Radio Luxembourg following the liberation of the Grand Duchy, for use as a black propaganda station (Radio 1212). Meanwhile Murrow had "covered the London air raids from the streets and rooftops ...went on 25 bombing missions over Germany and broadcast from a British minesweeper in World War II." (See TIME magazine, Monday, September 30, 1957: : This is Murrow) This close relationship between Murrow, Paley, CBS and the British Establishment led to an offer after the War for Murrow to become part of the editorial diarchy at the British Broadcasting Corporation, an offer that was not endorsed by the BBC Board of Directors.

Murrow returned to the USA which was in a growing Cold War with its former WWII partner, the Soviet Union. During these years of the late 1940s and early 1950s, political paranoia involving a Communist conspiracy was flowing from Washington, DC and it eventually came to be led by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy. Paley who came from a CBS/OWI background also became a firm supporter of the new Central Intelligence Agency after the War and allowed some of his part-time CBS newsmen to serve as CIA agents. His own Paley Foundation also became engaged in laundering money for the CIA and Paley allowed the creation of a CBS blacklist and Murrow was among the first to sign a CBS loyalty affirmation. (See pages 303-307, In All His Glory: The life of WIlliam S. Paley.) At the same time the Pledge of Allegiance was being repackaged amid controversy as a general test of American loyalty at large, and it was into this climate of fear and agitation that Murrow introduced his new radio program: This I Believe.

Murrow's style of presentation had been influenced by a teacher of speech named Ida Lou Anderson. She suggested that he should become more concise in his opening presentations on radio. Cesar Saerchinger, his predecessor at CBS Europe had introduced his broadcasts with: "Hello America. This is London calling." Murrow abbreviated his own opening remarks to "This...is London" and he soon began adapting the prefix "this" to many titles including "This... I Believe". James Earl Jones became one of many to adopt the Murrow style when he later announced: "This...is CNN". Murrow was not without his critics at CBS, and some of his colleagues had formed their own "Murrow-Ain't-God Club" (ibid TIME September 30, 1957.)

The original CBS series (1951–1955)[edit]

The original five-minute series began at WCAU in Philadelphia and was aired over the CBS Radio Network and 196 affiliated stations between 1951 and 1955. The Program Director was Edward P. Morgan who told potential contributors that This I Believe was a "non-religious" program and that it was not a forum for one contributor to attack the beliefs of another contributor. The actual time allotted to each contributor in order to allow for the introduction, closing and sponsorship of the program, was three and a half minutes. Novelist Kathleen Norris refused to participate on the grounds that "It's either a mawkish sermon, or it's indecent exposure." (See TIME magazine, Monday, December 1, 1952.)

This I Believe was also relayed by U.S. government funding over the Voice of America and the U.S. Armed Forces Network to listeners in 97 foreign countries. The BBC World Service, funded by the British Foreign Office, relayed the program to Australia.

A print version of the show appeared in 85 U.S. newspapers where contributors were asked to submit essays containing no more than 600 words. The U.S. State Department offered these editions to foreign newspapers in 97 nations with which the USA had diplomatic relations.

In 1952 Simon and Schuster published This I Believe: Written for, and with a foreword by Edward R. Murrow and edited by Edward P. Morgan. Its cover stated that it contained: ...the personal philosophies of one hundred thoughtful men and women. Its sales were only exceeded by the Bible.

A cover description of its contents stated that:

...this book is the further extension of an idea that has already exploded into the most widely listened to radio program in the world. That idea is simple. It is that men and women will live happier and richer lives if they deliberately decide what they want from life — what they want in material things and the relative importance of moral and spiritual things. You, like most people, undoubtedly have certain rules by which you run your life. But, again like most people, you've probably never tried to formulate them, even to yourself. That's where the men and women in this book differ from you. They have at least tried to do so. They have "looked in their hearts and written," humbly and hesitantly, upon the invitation of the distinguished radio and television news analyst, Edward R. Murrow. "After all," says he, "the only way of discovering what people believe is to ask them." What these thoughtful people, in all walks of life, have written is here for you to read and ponder, and perhaps to emulate — in this collection of the 100 of the best of the personal philosophies of life which Mr. Murrow has discovered among the many hundreds contributed to This I Believe - on the air and in newspapers.

How the show began[edit]

According to Ward Wheelock who wrote a preface to the 1952 book, This I Believe was launched in 1949 at a business luncheon of four men (Murrow being one, but he did not name the other three. However, in a postscript written by Murrow he stated that the editorial board of This I Believe consisted of himself, Wheelock and Edward P. Morgan.) He related that the reasons for the project "were obvious":

...the uncertainty of the economic future, the shadow of war, the atom bomb, army service for one's self or loved ones, the frustration of young people facing the future.

This I Believe, books[edit]

  • USA edition - 100 essays edited by Edward P. Morgan. 1952, Simon & Schuster. Second edition published 1953.
  • UK edition — with 50 British and 50 American essays, published 1954.
  • Egyptian edition with 50 Arabian and 50 American writers - published in Arabic 1954.
  • Australian edition - over 100 essays edited by John Marsden - published by Random House in 1996

This I Believe, record[edit]

  • This I Believe: With Commentary by Edward R. Murrow. The Personal Philosophies of Ten Living Americans & 10 Immortals. Columbia SL-192.

See also[edit]

Radio Luxembourg series (1956–1958)[edit]

When the original American series ended, This I Believe was broadcast by Radio Luxembourg as a half-hour show over its famous 208 wavelength. It was described in programme listings as "the human drama programme telling of faith in times of trouble and adversity", and "the programme that brings you human drama and tells the story of people where courage and belief form an integral part of their life." While the 208 wavelength schedule of Radio Luxembourg was aimed at serving the British Isles with a commercial radio station format of American shows that were not provided by the monopoly of the non-commercial BBC, its actual audience covered much of Europe and beyond via its simultaneous transmissions over 49.26 meters in the Shortwave Band.

The first English language European series of This I Believe began on September 16, 1956 at 9:30 PM on Sundays under the sponsorship of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, Ltd. It was hosted by Sir Basil Bartlett who had a part in British WWII propaganda films. The script was written by James Carhatt and Nicholas Winter.

A second series began on October 6, 1957 and presented by host James McKechnie with research by Susan Franks and script written by James Eastwood.

The third series was hosted by Richard Hurndall and began on October 5, 1958 with a script written by Paul Tabori. This last series concentrated upon the lives of celebrities such as Shirley Bassey, Vanessa Lee and T.E.B.Clark.

The series was produced by Monty Bailey-Watson in London where it was recorded by a unique process on to the audio tracks of film strips for later transmission from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The final series ended when American originated talk shows that had been heard on Radio Luxembourg, began to give way to the increasing demand for sponsored record programmes (which could be produced at a lower cost for higher revenue), in order to satisfy the British demand for recorded music that was not available on the BBC.

New NPR series (2005–2009)[edit]

This I Believe is a weekly radio series that began airing April 2005 in the United States on National Public Radio produced by Dan Gediman and Jay Allison. It was independently produced by Dan Gediman and Jay Allison from 2005-2009 for the non-profit organization This I Believe, Inc. The series invites individuals to write short essays about the core beliefs that guide their daily life. NPR aired these personal statements each week on their newsmagazine programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition Sunday and Tell Me More. On the February 16 episode, Allison announced that "our series will be finishing its four-year run in April." True to his word, the NPR series concluded on Sunday, April 26, 2009. However, the series continues with weekly segments on PRI's Bob Edwards Weekend and Sirius XM's The Bob Edwards Show (see below).

This I Believe books[edit]

In 2006 a new book called This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women was published. It collects sixty essays from the NPR series, plus twenty essays from Murrow's original radio series. Among the new contributors are Colin Powell, Isabel Allende, Bill Gates, Gloria Steinem, Newt Gingrich, Penn Jillette. Henry Holt and Co., ISBN 0-8050-8087-2

A second volume, This I Believe II: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, was published in 2008. It collects seventy-five new essays by people both famous and unknown. Among the new contributors are Yo-Yo Ma, Elie Wiesel, Tony Hawk, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Michelle Gardner-Quinn. ISBN 978-0-8050-8768-0

Another book, This I Believe: On Love was published in 2010. It collects sixty new essays from public radio listeners on the subject of love. ISBN 978-0-470-87268-0

This I believe: Life Lessons was published in October 2011. It is a collection of essays on the personal beliefs and guiding principals in American life. ISBN 978-1-118-07454-1

New CBC series (2007)[edit]

CBC Radio One began airing its own version of the show on May 14, 2007. The first forty essays were commissioned from prominent Canadians, including Julie Payette, Rick Hansen and Joe Clark, although subsequent essays are invited from the public. The show is hosted by former politician Preston Manning.

New PRI series (2009-Present)[edit]

In May 2009, This I Believe, Inc. moved its broadcast operations to the Public Radio International (PRI) program Bob Edwards Weekend and the related Sirius XM program The Bob Edwards Show. These programs feature a weekly This I Believe segment which airs first on Fridays on Sirius XM then on the following weekend on PRI's Bob Edwards Weekend. From May 2009 until August 2010, Edwards each week interviewed This I Believe, Inc.'s Executive Director Dan Gediman about a different episode of Murrow's 1950s radio series, which was then heard in its entirety. Beginning in September 2010, Edwards has each week been airing a new contemporary This I Believe essay, written by one of the tens of thousands of listeners who have submitted essays to This I Believe, Inc. since the beginning of their public radio series in 2005.

External links[edit]