Response To The New Bombs

Chester Bowles - Essex, Connecticut
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, July 9, 2010
Chester Bowles
Yale University Library photo

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.

Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

There are thoughtful men who believe that the weapons of mass destruction seal the doom of the civilization, which we have so painfully evolved throughout the centuries. They believe that in the face of new laboratory-created forces, man now stands lonely and inconsequential, hypnotized by the march of events and powerless to affect them. This may be so, but I do not believe it.

Indeed it seems to be more likely that the very vastness of the challenge will create in us a response, which will cut through the confusion and frustrations of our time and guide us toward a freer, richer future. Such a future will not come easily for all of our wishing. It will not come at all unless there are enough men and women—rich and poor, black, yellow, and white, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist—were prepared to dedicate their lives to its creation.

I believe that our proper response to the hydrogen bombs is to do what we should do without them. These awful weapons only sharpen the old moral problems, which have tested men since Cain and Abel. If we are true to the best within us, we will not rush to save ourselves at the price of surrender to totalitarianism abroad or conformity at home. Instead, in this valley of deepening shadow, each of us will seek so to live his life that he will deserve to be saved.

The Commandments instruct us to do unto others as we would be done by, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Is it so hard to know what this means for our time? The Bible tells us of a rich young man who asks Jesus, “What must I do?” But when he heard the answer, he went away sorrowfully, for he had great possessions. Is America not like the rich young man?

As long as two-thirds of the world is ill clad, ill housed, and ill fed, we have no right to relax in comfort while a commonism enlists the energies of the hopeless and disinherited of the earth. As long as people live in fear, I must work with my fellow Americans to create a climate where faith can combat it. As long as cynical men tell me that freedom can be saved by borrowing the immoral methods of those who would destroy freedom, I must oppose them and persuade others to do so.

I believe that the survival of freedom depends not on blind fate, diplomatic trickery, or brute military strength, but upon the convictions by which we live. The most fundamental of these is a certainty that each individual life is a sacred, vital part of the universal whole, and that there is no force superior to the human spirit. I have seen ample evidence of this in our own day, when the millions of India, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, achieved their freedom without violence or bitterness.

The growth of our own America has come not from the professional realists, who never worry of telling us of the things that cannot be done, but from men and women who know the power of great ideals supported by dedicated, individual effort. I believe that the democratic truths, which our Declaration of Independence once held to be self-evident, remain just as evident today. Consistent with our heritage, I believe that each of us in his daily life has the responsibility to reinforce these truths and to help extend them to all people everywhere.

Chester Bowles gave up a successful advertising business to be a public servant, political figure and diplomat. He worked in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations until 1948, when he was elected Governor of Connecticut. Bowles later served as U.S. Ambassador to India and Nepal.