Only A Little Less Than Angels

William V. Griffen - Peapeck, New Jersey
Broadcast during the 1950s
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I believe in my fellow men, in their integrity, their basic fairness, and their innate desire to do the right thing for themselves and their fellows. In the past several decades we have lost sight, I believe, of the fact that men are overwhelmingly honest and can be trusted. We need to restore our faith in our neighbors. We deal with them as though we had always to be on our guard.

I live in the fox hunting community and ride horseback a good deal. My neighbors are always buying and selling horses. I too have bought and sold horses. I must confess that I would put horse dealers, amateurs and professionals alike, in a class apart. In horse-trading, unlike any other business I know, one must be on one’s guard even with friends. Caveat emptor. But in all other transactions, my friends are the essence of honesty.

I dislike the destructive attitudes that have become fashionable in public and in private life, in politics, in the home, in the shop, and in the marketplace. Someone has said that it takes more muscular effort to frown than to smile. We need to smile more, to see the good side of men and to like it. In this I include myself. We need play down the seamy side of which we are altogether too quick to magnify and to enjoy.

I started supporting myself when I was 12 years old, which means I’ve been working for over fifty years. I’ve been lucky in my friends, business and social. I’ve gone through life having things done for me and doing things for others. I don’t remember ever really having been let down. Disappointments? Yes. Problems? Yes. Failures? Yes, a few. But I’ve never placed confidence in a person and been actually let down.

I believe that we desperately need to change from destructive to constructive points of view. We need a movement, even a crusade, to make it fashionable to believe in one another, to build up instead of tearing down, to trust one another. We need to realize how lucky we in this country are and to appreciate this luck, to try to do better for oneself and one’s family—not at the expense of the other fellow but in cooperation with him. We need to live up to our undertaking with mind and heart, to do as much as we can on our jobs instead of coasting along, to work competently and honestly, to live up to our given word literally and spiritually. If the constructive side of man were appealed to, he would respond enthusiastically.

Despite the uncertainties of the world situation, we are I believe on the threshold of a better life for our own citizens and for the countless millions in other lands. I believe all of us should count as a blessing to be able to help those millions. First of all, we should get ourselves in a more constructive frame of mind—taught one another here at home—and then set about to see what we can do to bring to those less fortunate some of the good things we have all too often taken for granted. I believe I am my brother’s keeper.

I begin each day with a prayer that it may be a useful one, and end it with thanksgiving for having been allowed to live it. I pray, not necessarily on my knees but instinctively and as naturally as breathing and the beating of my heart. During each day I thank Heaven over and over that I’m allowed to live. I believe all of us should remember that God made man only a little less than the angels.

William V. Griffen was a corporate executive and president of the English Speaking Union of the United States. From 1924 to 1944, he was assistant administrator of Lend-Lease, and later directed the British Empire branch of the Foreign Economic Administration. For his outstanding service, he was awarded a Presidential Certificate of Merit.