Our Noble Essential Dignity
Robert A. Heinlein

I am not going to talk about religious beliefs but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them.  I believe in my neighbors.  I know their faults, and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.

Take Father Michael, down our road a piece.  I'm not of his creed, but I know that goodness and charity and loving kindness shine in his daily actions.  I believe in Father Mike.  If I'm in trouble, I'll go to him.  My next-door neighbor's a veterinary doctor.  Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat--no fee, no prospect of a fee.  I believe in Doc.

I believe in my townspeople.  You can knock on any door in our town, say, "I'm hungry," and you'll be fed.  Our town is no exception.  I've found the same ready charity everywhere.  For the one who says, "The heck with you, I've got mine," there are a hundred, a thousand, who will say, "Sure pal, sit down."  I know that despite all the warnings about hitchhikers, I can step to the highway, thumb for a ride, and in a few minutes a car or truck will stop and someone will say, "Climb in, Mack.  How far you going?"

I believe in my fellow citizens.  Our headlines are splashed with crime.  Yet for every criminal, there are ten thousand honest, decent, kindly people.  If it were not so, no child would live to grow up.

Business could not go on from day to day.  Decency is not news.  It is buried in the obituaries, but it is a force stronger than crime.

I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses, in the tedious sacrifice of teachers.  I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land.  I believe in the honest craft of workmen.  Take a look around you.  There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work.  From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.

I believe that almost all politicians are honest.  For every bribed alderman, there are hundreds of politicians--low paid or not paid at all--doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our systems work.  If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies.

I believe in Roger Young.  You and I are free today because of endless unnamed heroes from Valley Forge to the Yalu River.  I believe in--I am proud to belong to--the United States.  Despite shortcomings--from lynchings, to bad faith in high places--our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.

And finally, I believe in my whole race--yellow, white, black, red, brown--in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability, and goodness of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet.  I am proud to be a human being.  I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth--that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth--but that we will always make it, survive, endure.

I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching oversized brain and the opposable thumb--this animal barely up from the apes--will endure, will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets--to the stars and beyond--carrying with him his honesty, her insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage, and her noble essential decency.  This I believe with all my heart.

(from the 1950's)

* * * * *

Robert A. Heinlein won four Hugo Awards during his fifty-year career as a science-fiction writer.  Born and raised in Missouri, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929 and did aeronautical engineering for the Navy during World War II.

National Public Radio listeners have been moved to tears by the personal essays that constitute the series This I Believe.  Created in 1951 with Edward Murrow as host, the sometimes funny, often profound, and always compelling series has been revived, according to host Jay Allison, because, once again, "matters of belief divide our country and the world."  Oral historian Studs Terkel kicks things off, and 80 personal credos follow.  Essays from the original series are interleaved with contemporary essays (selected from more than 11,000 submissions) to create a resounding chorus.


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