Today: Jul 16, 2024

Dan Gediman encourages students to share their beliefs

Josh Falcone – Staff Writer 

Dan Gediman, like most of the population, saw the world differently post 9/11, but when he stumbled upon a 1951 radio program called “This I Believe,” he realized how similar the post 9/11 mentality was to early Cold War mentality.

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Dan Gediman spoke to Southern students about sharing their beliefs and having a voice.

“We were so scared as a country,” Gediman said. “That we were willing to trade our civil liberties for security.”

Gediman was at the Lyman Center last Wednesday night discussing the “This I Believe” series of books and programs that he has been involved with over the past nine years as part of the Inauguration week for President Mary A. Papazian, who was in attendance.

Gediman discussed the creation of the original radio program hosted by Edward R. Murrow amid the uneasiness throughout the United States because of the Cold War, racial discord, and McCarthyism. He played recordings of some of the essays that were broadcast at that time, Murrow on the first episode talking about Cold War fear and baseball player Jackie Robinson arguing for racial change in the United States.

Gediman said that he stumbled upon the original “This I Believe” in 2003 and was so  fascinated with the 1950s program that he wanted to do something with the idea.

“My original intent,” he said. “With ‘This I Believe’ was not to necessarily start a new series. I wanted to document this old series.”

He said that he thought these essays were very contemporary in nature. Gediman said that the post 9/11 United States with the passing of the Patriot Act had a lot in common with the country when it was in the early days of the Cold War.

“As a citizen,” he said, “this concerned me.”

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First year students were required to read “This I Believe” as part of First-year Experience.

Gediman said this is what led him to revive “This I Believe,” and that the program succeeded in addressing these concerns. The revival of “This I Believe,” he said, has become a successful outlet for people of all ages, especially the college-aged crowd. Gediman said that this iteration is different from the 1950’s version because of who can take part.

“We’ve opened this up to everyone,” he said

He said that the organization has received over 125,000 essays. There have been essays from around the world including Europe, Africa and Asia.

One of the most popular essays, Gediman said, is an essay from a 17-year-old Chinese American girl struggling with what career path to take. The power and popularity of young contributors was surprising yet uplifting to freshman Sarah Beatty.

“I liked that younger people are some of the biggest contributors [to],” Beatty said, “And that we have a strong voice.”

Gediman said that in the past he has had discussions with book publishers about releasing a book that included essays and stories from high school and college students but was repeatedly turned down. He said that numerous publishers gave the reason as young people don’t have any words of wisdom or lessons to teach. Gediman said that the return of “This I Believe” and the strong input of younger people have changed that mentality.

The book, “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women” was chosen as the common read for first year students at Southern, which is what brought Beatty and fellow freshman Michelle Martino to the Lyman Center. Martino said she was glad she attended the occasion.

“He [Gediman] was very inspiring,” she said. “And more enthusiastic than I thought he’d be.”

As part of the First- Year Experience (FYE) and the Inquiry (INQ) curriculum, the first-year Southern students already have or will write their own “This I Believe” essays.

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