This I Believe

Reginald Orcutt - Newport, Rhode Island
Broadcast during the 1950s
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Some fifty years and a million miles ago, I spent one of the happiest spring times of my boyhood in Italy. My father, the late William Dana Orcutt, was then engaged to typographic research in the Laurentian library in Florence, where Dr. Guido Biagi, director of the library, became his close friend. Dr. Biagi shared with us generously, his deep familiarity with the cultural beauties of the Renaissance in Italy, which were inspired by the so-called “humanistic” movement of that remarkable 16th century.

As a result of this humanistic pattern of thought so long ago, our world of today has been enriched with a greater dynamic heritage of painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and beauty. Dr. Biagi and my father, after many attempts, succeed in expressing in language the very essence of the humanistic creed. This humanistic creed is no copybook maxim, nor the utterance of any individual. It is the expression of a composite thought that dominated a great era in the growth of western civilization. I quote my father’s text of it: “Hold yourself ready to accept truth unprejudiced as to its source and having received truth, accept the responsibility to give it out again, made richer by your personal interpretation.”

Since that faraway springtime, it has been my portion to travel throughout all the world, from Greenland to New Zealand, Siberia to the Belgian Congo, in the service of the graphic arts. And working in such tense and difficult foregrounds as Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, or with the Afrikaans and Bantu Press in Africa, or within th e peaceful wide horizons of Iceland or in Tasmania. That humanistic creed has blown in my subconscious until it has long since become a treasured ideal to live by. In the years between World Wars I and II, I lived in countries whose citizens or subjects were blighted and harassed with fear, and mistrust and hatred, both civil and international. While the Nazis were censoring out such international words as “telephone,” substituting all German nouns for the hated foreign expressions, the Russian were censoring “God” form their dictionaries.

But two and two still make four, even in the mouths of those who we may be obliged to regard temporarily as our enemies. That is still true, even when they have to hear it from us. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” is still valid from pole to pole, even though curtains of iron or bamboo may try to exclude it by force. So this I believe: that to be ready to accept truth, unprejudiced as to its source, and to give it out again, made richer by ones personal interpretation, is as vitally important as it is often difficult. Words in whatever language, whether spoken, on the printed page, on the radio, or screen or television, are conveying thought: from one to one, or one to millions. To evaluate them with integrity, with both tolerance and a critical spirit, is a worthy challenge toward a world of peace, goodwill, and understanding.

“In the beginning was the word,” wrote St. John, “and the word was God.” And God transcends all frontiers.