In my high school English class, one of our assignments was to write an essay in response to the guidelines for “This I Believe,” posted on the NPR website. As part of the writing process, we were also required to read and listen to a number of essays aired on the radio program. Somewhere between skimming the personal beliefs of John McCain and David from Chicago, Martha Graham and Josh from New York, it came to me that I believe in “This I Believe.”
As a seventeen year old high school student, it can be easy to loose hope that the world is going to be a better place tomorrow. We are inundated with news stories about monolithic problems, from the economic crisis to global warming, and politicians talk about how their generation is handing down a world that is in much worse shape than when they inherited it.
But reading the personal credos of so many different people—young and old, rich and poor, free and imprisoned, famous and unknown—rekindled my faith in the innate goodness and vast capability of humanity. People from an incredible diversity of backgrounds find something in their everyday lives that keeps them going, that they can count on to always be there, that puts a smile on their faces. Michael Mullane believes that the power of the rule of law keeps society functioning, and Troy Chapman believes that a stray cat can make convicted felons better people. Everyone has some idea of how life should be. They value the small glimpses of this that occur in their everyday lives. The fact that people can explain their ideas so logically and articulate them in concise, often beautiful, writing, is evidence to the fact that we must collectively have enough intelligence and creativity to solve the world’s problems. The notion that this many people took the time and energy to do so, and to send them off to a radio station when there is no personal gain in it for them gives me confidence that humans are not directionless. We truly are invested in the state of things.
Finally, I believe that “This I Believe” is the closest society has come to the ideal of pluralism, which makes democracy possible. It is another step closer to realizing our grand principles, an outline for how we should coexist. Scrolling through the database, you can find essays on almost every topic imaginable. Often the people I disagree with are the ones I think are the smartest; no matter the subject, I am always left in awe of this small miracle in the form of a radio program, on which no one argues or threatens, but instead a myriad of convictions are expressed in the affirmative. So when I say that I believe in “This I Believe,” I suppose I really mean that I believe in hope, I believe in growth, I believe in life, I believe in love, and most of all, I believe in the power of belief in something, anything, that keeps each of us going.