For this first assignment, I’d like to know what you value and what’s important to you: a statement of your own personal beliefs. The model for this essay and its guidelines is a radio program, This I Believe, first begun by Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s and revived by NPR several years ago. The program highlights inspiring beliefs of both famous and ordinary people. This project continues today as an online forum.
In a 500-word essay, you are to write your own statement of personal belief. This is challenging! It requires a level of introspection so deep that no one else can do it for you. Use the following suggestions, adapted from http://www.thisibelieve.org, as a guide:
Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. You are writing an essay, not a list. Focus on one core belief, which you will explain, define, and develop through the essay.
Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in specific events of your life. Consider moments when your 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. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs. Tell me how you reached your beliefs, and if they have grown, what made them grow. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real.
Be positive: Please avoid preaching or editorializing or finger-pointing. I do not want your views on the American way of life, democracy, or capitalism. (These are important but for another occasion.) I want to know what you live by,what you DO believe, not what you don’t believe.
Be personal: Avoid speaking in the editorial “we” or the projecting “you” or the accusing “they.” The project is “this I believe,” not “this everyone believes,” “this my church believes,” or “this Americans/Russians/Scientologists believe.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. I 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.
Feel free to visit http://thisibelieve.org for examples. There are thousands! You can browse by theme, by age of writer, or by featured essay. Some of my favorites include “Always Be Cool to the Pizza Dude” (http://thisibelieve.org/essay/23/), “Satisfaction for a Job Well Done”http://thisibelieve.org/essay/17342/, and “Bessie Mae: Nobody Special” http://thisibelieve.org/essay/75638/. I most enjoy reading around in the popular culture themed essays: http://thisibelieve.org/theme/popular-culture/.