Financier and elder statesman Bernard Baruch found his beliefs shaken by the atrocities of World War II and the advent of the hydrogen bomb. But by believing in courage, intelligence and reason, Baruch is able to feel hope for the future.
When I was a younger man, I believed that progress was inevitable—that the world would be better tomorrow and better still the day after. The thunder of war, the stench of concentration camps, the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb are, however, not conducive to optimism. All our tomorrows for years to come will be clouded by the threat of a terrible holocaust.
Yet my faith in the future, though somewhat shaken, is not destroyed. I still believe in it. If I sometimes doubt that man will achieve his mortal potentialities, I never doubt that he can.
I believe that these potentialities promise all men a measure beyond reckoning of the joys and comforts, material and spiritual, that life offers. Not utopia, to be sure. I do not believe in utopias. Man may achieve all but perfection.
Paradise is not for this world. All men cannot be masters, but none need to be a slave. We cannot cast out pain from the world, but needless suffering we can. Tragedy will be with us in some degree as long as there is life, but misery we can banish. Injustice will raise its head in the best of all possible worlds, but tyranny we can conquer. Evil will invade some men’s hearts, intolerance will twist some men’s minds, but decency is a far more common human attribute, and it can be made to prevail in our daily lives.
I believe all this because I believe, above all else, in reason—in the power of the human mind to cope with the problems of life. Any calamity visited upon man, either by his own hand or by a more omnipotent nature, could have been avoided or at least mitigated by a measure of thought. To nothing so much as the abandonment of reason does humanity owe its sorrows. Whatever failures I have known, whatever errors I have committed, whatever follies I have witnessed in private and public life, have been the consequence of action without thought.
Because I place my trust in reason, I place it in the individual. There is a madness in crowds from which even the wisest, caught up in their ranks, are not immune. Stupidity and cruelty are the attributes of the mob, not wisdom and compassion.
I have known, as who has not, personal disappointments and despair. But always the thought of tomorrow has buoyed me up. I have looked to the future all my life. I still do. I still believe that with courage and intelligence we can make the future bright with fulfillment.
Bernard Baruch rose to prominence as a financier and member of the New York Stock Exchange. He advised Presidents Woodrow Wilson during World War I, Franklin Roosevelt during the New Deal and World War II, and Harry Truman in the post-war era.
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