The original This I Believe series from the 1950’s returns to radio on Friday, May 1st on The Bob Edwards Show and also on Bob Edwards Weekend on May 2-3. The series, originally hosted by Edward R. Murrow, features personal essays by some of the leading public figures of the time, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, Upton Sinclair, Margaret Mead, Albert Einstein and Senator Margaret Chase Smith. The Cold War and McCarthyism were major issues in the news of the early 50’s and many of the essays reflect those concerns, yet others are apolitical and more introspective. The series was enormously popular and enjoyed a worldwide audience through the Voice of America and the BBC. Newspapers ran the essays and they were collected in two books that sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
Public radio producer Dan Gediman found one of those books in his wife’s personal library. Dan had never heard of This I Believe because he’s a young man and the series aired before he was born. Enlisting public radio veteran Jay Allison as editor, Dan revived the series for National Public Radio, inviting everyday listeners to record their essays. Thousands did so, and 75 of them are included in a best-selling book still in stores.
In our first installment, Dan will provide an overview of the series and play excerpts of some of the upcoming essays from the likes of legendary actress Helen Hayes and Ambassador Chester Bowles. The original series host, Edward R. Murrow, also recorded an essay, and we’ll hear that one in our series second week. It is fascinating to put yourself back in that time and hear what was important to our most prominent Americans.
The idea for This I Believe originated not with Murrow, but with Ward Wheelock, who ran the ad agency representing Murrow’s radio sponsor, Campbell’s Soup. Murrow provided the title—a phrase his Quaker mother used to preface declarations to all who would listen. The series continued until Wheelock lost the Campbell’s account. Murrow paid out of his pocket to continue the series through 1954. In January, 1955, Wheelock, his wife, and son were aboard a boat that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. That was the end of This I Believe until Dan Gediman happened upon his wife’s book.
The Bob Edwards Show and Bob Edwards Weekend are proud to be a part of the revival of This I Believe, and we know you’ll enjoy hearing these long-gone American icons explain what was important to them in the early 1950’s. At the time, boomers like me were just starting school and receiving our first instructions in “Civil Defense.” At teacher’s order, we were to turn our backs to the window and crawl under our wooden desks—a surefire deterrent to nuclear holocaust.