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Book Review This I Believe

The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women
Edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman
In Association with NPR

When I received my copy of “This I Believe,” I had no idea that it had originally been a radio show. Now I don’t say this often, but something about this book really touched me. As I started reading it, I had no idea that some of the essays were over 50 years old; they all resonated so well with what we are currently going through as a nation that at first glance, I thought they’d been written specifically for this book.

As the book is compiled of 79 essays, I decided to just flip it open to the middle of the book and read the first essay that the book opened to. The book opened to page 106 “Happy Talk” by some guy who I’d never heard of. I was completely engaged almost immediately! Someone was writing about something that I, too, felt in my own heart. As I read the author’s biography at the end of the essay I realized that “some guy” was Oscar Hammerstein II (of Rodger’s and Hammerstein fame) and that the essay was over 50 years old!

At this point I decided to read from the beginning so I could get the whole story on “This I Believe.” It turns out that “This I Believe” was actually a radio show (on National Public Radio) that aired from 1951 - 1955, and was hosted by Edward R. Murrow. The series was so inspiring to Americans that two volumes filled with essays from the show were printed, and reached the Top-10 Bestseller’s list for three years. England came out with their own version of the radio program, and “This I Believe” went on to achieve world-wide recognition.

This book is filled with truly inspiring essays from both the famous (and the infamous) and the unknown. The essays themselves are a brief description (approximately 2-3 pages) of a belief of that particular writer, and why they hold that particular belief. For example, in my favorite essay, titled “Happy Talk,” Oscar Hammerstein II states “I believe, therefore, that it is important for a man to announce that he is happy even though such an announcement is less dramatic and less entertaining than the cries of his pessimistic opposite.”

Helen Keller, Colin Powell, Bill Gates and Gloria Steinem are among some of the more well known writers. And famous, or not, all the essays are inspiring. There are even a couple of celebrities (who maybe I find a wee bit annoying) who still managed to dazzle me with their own heartfelt writing. At the end of each essay is a very brief biography of the writer.

In the “Afterward” section, Dan Gediman explains the history of the radio show, and how he became inspired to start this book. In the appendix section is the introduction to the 1950s “This I Believe” radio series (which I recommend reading first). There is also a section on how to write your own “This I Believe” essay, and a section on how to use it in community projects.

”This I Believe” would be a wonderful book for those who do public speaking on inspirational topics. Both Ministers and Bloggers alike would find the inspirational topics in this book to be invaluable. I would also recommend it for teachers interested in helping their students to discover what their beliefs are. You are also invited to write your own "This I Believe" essay and submit it to their website www.thisibelieve.org.

At our core, our belief system is what essentially describes who we really are as a person. It’s not always easy to know who we are until we know what we believe. I found “This I Believe” to be inspiring and comforting. It is a book that offers hope in a troubled world and helps us to see the strength of the human spirit. It has made me ask the question “what do I believe?”

And now I ask you….

”What do you believe?”

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