Saturday, March 17, 2012

What is the "This I Believe" Column?

In the 1950s, journalist Edward R. Murrow hosted a weekly radio series inviting listeners “to write about the core beliefs that guide your daily life.” At a time of political and cultural anxiety, the show asked Nobel laureates and everyday citizens to articulate their personal articles of faith even as it called them to listen carefully to the beliefs of others. In 2005, This I Believe was revived for National Public Radio as a way “to encourage people to begin the . . . difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.” This column will carry on that tradition by providing a forum for students and others to express their own core beliefs.   
If you would like to write your own This I Believe essay or assign this essay to your classes, you can listen to sample essays on their website. You can also download curriculum for middle school, high school, college, and life-long-learning students.  You can also read the guidelines below. We look forward to hearing from you or your students. 
Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events of your life. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 500 and 750 words. That’s about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief, because three minutes is a very short time.

Be positive: Please avoid preaching or editorializing. Tell us what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person.

Be personal: Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

Please send submissions to Dr. Roger West at


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