The History of This I Believe

More than 50 years ago, three of the most powerful men in broadcasting developed the idea for a new radio program. The result was This I Believe, hosted by Edward R. Murrow. Listen to the remarkable story of the original series to learn what Americans of half a century ago believed.

Part 1 – The Birth of an Idea  (length 13:51)

 

Part 2 – Exploring Social Issues of the Day  (length 24:36)

 

Part 3 – The End and Revival of This I Believe   (length 12:32)

Statements of belief from more than 20 leading figures of the 1950s are featured in the documentry. Click the links below to hear and read their full essays.

Edward R. Murrow

In launching This I Believe in 1951, host Edward R. Murrow explained the need for such a radio program at that time in American history, and said his own beliefs were “in a state of flux.”

Helen Keller

Helen Keller learned to communicate through the eyes and ears of others after a fever left her deaf and blind as an infant. The author, activist and lecturer discusses her vision of faith and how it gives her hope for the future of mankind.

Martha Graham

Legendary choreographer Martha Graham believes that living — like dancing — requires practice to achieve a sense of one’s being and a satisfaction of spirit.

William O. Douglas

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas encourages a return to the faith of his father’s generation. He believes spiritual values, not material ones, can guide America through troubling times.

George Mardikian

San Francisco restaurateur George Mardikian tells of his immigration from Eastern Europe to the United States, and explains how he tries to repay the warm embrace Americans have given him.

Agnes Moorehead

Stage, film and television actress Agnes Moorehead believes her life was made full by having a strong faith in God, pursuing truth, and committing her talents to the theater.

Pearl Buck

Even in the face of possible nuclear war, Nobel Prize winning writer Pearl S. Buck finds her faith in humanity to be stronger than ever, and believes that cooperation can solve the world’s problems.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Instead of concerning herself with spiritual questions, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt believes in facing life’s challenges by simply doing your best.

Susie Jones

As a housewife, educator and church leader in Greensboro, North Carolina, Susie Jones believes spiritual fulfillment comes from attending to the mundane chores of daily life.

John Hughes

John Hughes was born in Ireland, orphaned at the age of two, and came to America when he 19. As a New York City taxi driver for 35 years, Hughes says honesty and a belief in God have made him the man he is.

Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Hale

As a New York City couple married for 30 years, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Hale found that their love for each other inspired compassion and understanding for all of their fellow citizens.

Margaret Sanger

As a nurse, Margaret Sanger believed it was important to work not just for herself, but for greater good in the world. As a social activist, Sanger believed that all children should be wanted before they are conceived.

Will Thomas

In his novel, “The Seeking,” Will Thomas detailed his family’s experience of moving to an all-white New England town. His essay explores how his own bigotry once shaped his beliefs.

Harry S. Truman

President Harry Truman explains the beliefs that influenced his two decades of public service and encourages Americans to correct the remaining imperfections in our democracy.

Bernard Baruch

Financier and elder statesman Bernard Baruch found his beliefs shaken by the advent of the hydrogen bomb. But by believing in reason, Baruch is able to feel hope for the future.

Chester Bowles

Diplomat Chester Bowles believes each person has a responsibility to uphold the truths and ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Bible. In doing so, Bowles says, we live lives worth saving.

Albert Einstein

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein finds beauty in life’s mysteries, and says the fate of mankind depends on individuals choosing public service over private gain.

Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead says she can’t separate what she believes as a person from what she believes as an anthropologist. And she believes humans beings, as part of a greater biological whole, have a responsibility to everyone else on the planet.

Rebecca West

In her life and her writings, Dame Rebecca West says she tries to live out her beliefs in freedom, the rule of law, the importance of God and the exercise of religion as a way to connect to God.

Muhammad Khan

As a devout Muslim, Pakistani Foreign Minister Muhammad Kahn believes the object of man’s existence is to seek union with God through the cultivation of divine attributes within himself.

Percy Spender

In thinking of the world he wants to leave for his two sons, Australian diplomat Sir Percy Spender gives voice to his belief in public service, respect for nature and living without fear.

Elizabeth Deutsch

At 16, Elizabeth Deutsch was the youngest essayist to appear on Edward R. Murrow’s This I Believe. She discusses her questions, doubts and searches for philosophical and spiritual beliefs that can guide her as an adult.

Robert Heinlein

In spite of his successful career as a science fiction writer, Robert Heinlein beliefs are more down to earth. He believes in the decency of his neighbors, and the future of the human race.


The History of This I Believe was produced by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick. The program is based on the documentary “A Philosophy to Live By,” produced by Emily Williams and Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio 4.