The Intro

This I Believe is an award-winning radio show/podcast broadcast on NPR, where drastically different people – artists, athletes, celebrities, and regular people alike – disclose the core beliefs that guide their daily lives.  What’s more, they examine how those beliefs were formed.

For this assignment, you will be composing your own ‘This I Believe' essay.

 The Basics

  • Your essay should be approximately 500 words written, 3 minutes recorded.
  • You should write the essay in your own words first, then record your own voice
  • Tell not only what you believe, but how you reached those beliefs – what, specifically caused them to grow, evolve, etc.?
  • You should use the first person
  • Confine yourself to affirmatives (i.e. no I don’t believe in Santa, being kind to others, bathing, etc.)
  •  With this assignment you should demonstrate an understanding of the principles of voice and grammatical conventions covered in this unit

The Details

  • The written essay must be:
    • Printed
    • Double-spaced with either Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Arial font
    • Have an appropriate header (your name, my name, course name, date) in the top-left corner
    • Have a clever, insightful, relevant title (not underlined, in italics, in quotation marks) – something that puts a smile on my face
  • The recording can be completed quite simply by going to  Simply record your essay (read with conviction – this is, after all, an assignment about your convictions). Listen to it, click on ‘save,’ and email it to me at

The Secret

  • This is something you’re going to hear from me for as long as I teach you English: the more true you can be to your own unique thoughts, feelings, and experiences, the more compelling your work will be.  As with all writing, the goal is to produce something that no one else could, because no one else is you.  This is what voice – that elusive quality present (for better or for worse) in all writing – is all about.

Before you get started, you are highly encouraged to listen some of the sample essays below - a full list of contributors can be found here.

Muhammed Ali: "I Am Still the Greatest" - To be the "Greatest of All Time," boxing legend Muhammad Ali says you have to believe in yourself. It's a lesson Ali's parents taught him as a child, and it has helped him through the biggest challenge of his life: fighting Parkinson's disease.

Luis Arrea: "Life Is an Act of Literary Creation" - Mexican-American novelist Luis Urrea used to think that simply being a good observer would make his writing better. But over time, he's come to believe that being a good writer and a good person comes from paying attention to the world around him.

Eve Birch: "The Art of Being a Neighbor" - A few years ago, Eve Birch was broke and living alone in a dilapidated mountain shack. But a community of people befriended her, shared what little they had with her and showed Birch the value of neighbors uniting to help one another.

Jennifer Thompson-Cannino: "Finding Freedom in Forgiveness" - Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was certain that Ronald Cotton was the man who raped her in 1984. But she was wrong. After Cotton spent 11 years in jail, DNA evidence proved his innocence. Now, the two have a friendship based on their belief in forgiveness.

Tarak McLain: "Thirty Things I Believe" - When Tarak McLain's kindergarten group celebrated their 100th day of class, some kids brought 100 nuts or cotton balls. Tarak brought a list of 100 things he believes. Now a first-grader, Tarak shares his top beliefs about God, life, nature and war.

Various: "Beliefs Born on the Battlefield" - There is perhaps no time that belief is more emphatically tested, and acted upon, than in war. For this Veterans Day, five essayists who served in battle from World War I through the Iraq war describe how the violence of combat shaped their beliefs.

Geoffrey Canada: - "A Taste of Success" - As a young teacher fresh out of graduate school, Geoffrey Canada saw how even the most troubled children could learn — all it took was finding the right approach. Today, Canada believes dedication and innovative teaching techniques can help any child succeed.

Presidents Hoover and Truman:  Former Presidents Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman both participated in the original, 1950s This I Believe series. Hoover's belief blended his scientific background with his religious faith. Truman spoke of ending racial and religious discrimination.

Yo-Yo Ma: "A Musician of Many Cultures" - Cellist Yo-Yo Ma was born in France to Chinese parents, and he has lived in the U.S. since he was seven. Instead of trying to choose among these cultural roots, Ma decided to embrace them all. He believes doing so has enriched his life and music.

Kim Phuc: "The Long Road to Forgiveness - When Kim Phuc was 9 years old, her village in South Vietnam was bombed with napalm. A famous photo showed Kim running from the attack, naked and screaming. In the painful recovery from her burn wounds, Kim found that true healing came through forgiveness.