- Shanea Goldizen
“This I Believe offers a simple, if difficult invitation: write a few hundred words expressing the core principles that guide your life - your personal credo. We issue that invitation to politicians, nurses, artists, construction workers, athletes, parents, students, the famous, and the unknown, everyone. All the essayists in this book accepted invitations.” –Jay Allison
From 1951-1955, The CBS Radio Network aired This I Believe, a five-minute program in which people from all walks of life, the famous and not-so-famous, read their responses to the question “What do you believe?”. From 2005-2009, NPR revived the idea with a similar broadcast, and subsequently published two volumes of "This I Believe" essays. In August of this year, my professor for English 307: The Writing Process gave us an assignment to write a This I Believe essay. We were given copies of the book’s Appendix B: “How to write your own This I Believe essay” and sample essays to read and give us an idea of the format, tone and length. It was a mind-opening assignment, let me tell you.
Last month I was at the bookstore with my dad, and I picked up a copy of This I Believe out of curiosity. I’d read the samples my professor had given us in class, and I was interested in reading more. I ended up buying it and I’m glad I did. This I Believe teaches anyone who picks it up that no matter how different you are from someone else, no matter your difference in religion, ethnicity, culture, age or gender, you still seek the same things: acceptance, love, happiness and something to believe in. At the end of each essay, which hovers around 150 words in length, there is a brief section which gives a little background information on the author. Among the writers featured in This I Believe are a former congressman, a dancer, several authors, a psychologist, professors, a Broadway star, a part-time hospital clerk, a chaplain and a caregiver for the elderly. By placing an essay by Helen Keller beside an essay by Ruth Kamps, a retired elementary school teacher, the editors of This I Believe demonstrate that not only does everyone have something to say, but that whatever it is is of equal value to that of anyone else.
A couple of my favorite essays in the book are “Be Cool to the Pizza Dude," by Sarah Adams, and “Finding Prosperity by Feeding Monkeys," by Harold Taw. They are two of the more lighthearted pieces, but they communicate the valuable truths that make themselves known in the small and the quirky aspects of life.
This I Believe is a book that doesn’t have to be read in chronological order, in the same setting or even in its entirety. The individual titles draw in readers by sparking their interest with intriguing quirkiness, inspirational tone or a simple, firm statement of belief. Whatever you’re in the mood for, This I Believe will have something for you that inspires, tickles or challenges you into reflecting on what it is that YOU believe.