This I Believe

Lawrence - Half Moon Bay, California
Entered on August 14, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: creativity

I believe in the power of words. As a parent I eagerly awaited the first compresensible word my daughter would speak. Unfortunately I didn’t hear it, her Uncle John did. It was ‘shoe’. When I came home from work and found out, I felt cheated, but knew some magical line had been crossed. Never again would she be the same. Ahead of her lay a lifetime of other lines crossed when other words would be empowered by being spoken. She is now a nine year old who never has enough time in a day to read the words that others have written.

As a fifteen year old high school freshman I stood on stage before an audience of eight hundred of my peers wondering what had lead me to do such a scary and terrible thing. In the movie “On the Waterfront” , Karl Molden played a priest who stood in the hole of a cargo ship and explained to the dock workers that he was there to keep a promise. In giving that speech I didn’t win first place, I won third I didn’t forget a single word. I didn’t faint. When I was done, although I knew not a word in the speech came originally from me, I took my seat knowing that words would power my future. I went on to teach for thirty-four years before retiring from the classsroom nine years ago. I have always included public speaking in the curriculum of my classes.

I believe that I have changed, formed, expanded people’s minds because I could put my ideas into words. Once formed, the words took on a power of their own and went on to increase in power if they were repeated.

All of the mind’s work begins with the building blocks of words. Given a sufficient supply of them, I can understand the thinking of others, create new ideas, and have a better chance at finding happiness.

I believe the power of the spoken word is supreme. Its language, tone, inflection, volume brings with it the energy, emotion and intent of the speaker. Its expression usually results in action,and reaction. The recording of the spoken word has all its original power, and the added advantage of being able to set free that power over and over again. I was fortunate enough to be standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial the day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech. Every time I hear it, I am transported back instantly to that day. If at all possible, NPR asks a poet or author to read his or her own work on the air.

The written word is only slightly less powerful. However, whether written on wall, animal skin, parchment or paper, or embedded in the the silicon of a chip, it endures. Its power is preserved ready to be released over and over again.

I believe the power of words can transform lives. Every vocabulary lesson I taught began with the preamble: “Remember, words have power!”. Some of my proudest moments have come from hearing returning students tell me that they had found that to be true.

I believe that while settings words free usually multiplies their power, using the same word in many different settings weakens it. In my Junior High Language Arts classes I could always count on an uproar when I spoke the following words: “No, you do not love your dog. You can’t love your dog.” I wanted to plant in their minds the idea that the word should be saved for the attempt at expressing the deepest encounter possible between two human beings. I refused to allow them to lessen the power of the word love by saying they loved their dog, of loved vanilla ice cream, or loved a nice day at the beach. The discussion usually ended with their acquiescence about ice cream and the beach, but their continued defense of loving their dog.

I believe the most distructive use of the word love is an an object of the verb make. As if the many aspects of sexual intercourse, complex as they may be, were sufficient to define the most powerful of all words.

I believe that I should be held accountalbe for my words: thought, spoken or written. i revel in the realization that on at least a few occasions I have set free the power of speaking the truth. And I confess that I have suffered the consequences of adding to the power of lies by once again putting them into words.

i chose to write this essay after having heard others speak what they believe on the radio. I have been transformed by hearing their thoughts, and I believe, like me, they too know the power of the spoken word.