This I Believe: Revisiting Barry Bingham Sr.’s creed

Nov 14, 2006 at 8:23 pm
This I Believe
This I Believe
Editor’s note: LEO, in partnership with WFPL-FM, is publishing This I Believe essays by Louisville-area residents. This week, we bring you one written by Barry Bingham Sr. more than 50 years ago — when the Edward R. Murrow program initially aired. To write your own essay stating a core belief, go to Some essays will be published or broadcast, and LEO will publish additional essays on its Web site.

Edward R. Murrow: Barry Bingham is a newspaperman. He started as a police reporter in his hometown of Louisville. Twenty years later, he became the president of both The Louisville Times and Courier-Journal, and the editor of the latter. He often leaves his editorial desk to serve to his country. He spent three years overseas with the Navy and, in 1949, was the chief of the Special Mission to France for the ECA. Against this very background, Barry Bingham now expresses his creed:

[img_assist|nid=3187|title=Photo by Studio Harcourt, Paris, France c. 1950/Courtesy of Eleanor Miller|desc=|link=|align=right|width=146|height=200]I belong to the generation of Americans who grew up after World War I. Many of us pulled away from religion because we could not see in it the answer to the two things we wanted most in life: freedom and happiness. Even now it’s a little difficult for me to talk about the things I believe in because my generation was embarrassed by faith. We tried to live without it. Our pursuit of happiness grew more and more feverish, and we kept running faster and faster without finding our goal.

Then the War gave us a chance to stop and take bearings. I spent many months on a Pacific island where, for the first time in years, I really had time to think. Many others have told me of having this same experience. I found that I could not go on running through the strange and often terrifying forest of modern life without a light to guide me. I could still see the spark of faith gleaming faintly in the distance. I have been trying ever since to work my way back to it.

I believe each of us must accept his full share of responsibility in life. My generation tried to run away from responsibility; we tried to avoid growing up. I have a feeling that this is especially an American weakness which we all inherit to some extent, this unwillingness to accept maturity. We are a young race living in a young country. I have found that those who are young in heart are the happiest people in the world. But those who stay young in character, beyond the years of growing up, are the unhappiest.

It seems to me that the code of responsibility, here, lies in the Parable of the Talents in the New Testament. That simple story explains that all men are not given equal endowments or opportunities, and that they are not expected to produce equal results. The parable makes clear that the man who is given five talents, or five pieces of money, has an obligation to produce a greater sum on the Day of Reckoning than the man who starts with only two talents or one. It is the degree of effort and of dedication that counts.

Of course, I do not argue that a man can meet all problems of life merely by embracing responsibility and full self-reliance. The strongest among us is worth nothing without faith in a force far stronger than all our strength and wisdom combined. Yet, I believe that I must try to merit God’s friendship in the calm days of my life if I am to stretch out and grasp His hand at those moments when the best of human effort fails.

We Americans of my generation have wasted years in a fruitless search for happiness and freedom. A great many of us are now beginning to realize that a happy life is a good and useful one. As to the absolute independence we have sought in vain, the Book of Common Prayer could have told us all along that, “the answer is in God, whose service is perfect freedom.”