On this day in 1941, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960) gave a radio speech in which he presented ten principles that, according to him, “point the way to usefulness and happiness in life, to courage and peace in death.”
Rockefeller was the only son of oil baron John D. Rockefeller. Unlike his father, he became better known for the money he gave away than for the money he made. His philanthropy included the establishment of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. John’s son Nelson Rockefeller served as both the governor of New York and the 41st Vice President of the United States under President Gerald Ford (1).
Rockefeller’s 1941 speech is written as a credo, Latin for “I believe.” As you read each of his ten statements of personal belief below, notice how he organizes each one in parallel fashion, using clear and concise language:
-I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
-I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.
-I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master.
-I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.
-I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs.
-I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order.
-I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond; that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth.
-I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free.
-I believe in an all-wise and all-loving God, named by whatever name, and that the individual’s highest fulfillment, greatest happiness, and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His will.
-I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.
Rockefeller’s credo is etched in granite at the entrance to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center in New York City (See September 7: Words Chiseled in Granite Day).
Today’s Challenge: Your PSB
What are some examples of the personal beliefs you live by? You have probably heard of a Public Service Announcement or PSA, but have you ever heard of a PSB? A PSB is a Personal Statement of Beliefs, also known as a credo. Crafting your own credo and periodically revising it is a nice way to identify and practice the beliefs that you feel are essential to live life to its fullest. The writer Robert Fulghum, for example, would sit down each spring and write and revise his credo (See October 30: All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Kindergarten Day). Write your own PSB with at least three statements. Begin each one with “I believe . . .” As you write and revise, ask yourself how you would explain and justify the importance of each of your statements. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
Quotation of the Day: I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. –Robert Fulghum
1- Safire, William. Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.