The Only Way to Make a Friend
By HERBERT H. LEHMAN
SO MANY THINGS affect a man’s philosophy and his life that I find it difficult to put into words my personal beliefs. I hesitate to speak of them publicly for fear of giving the appearance of preaching.
Two convictions, however, I believe have more than any others influenced my thinking both in private and in public life.
First, commonplace as it may sound, I am convinced that what we get out of life is in direct proportion to what we put into it. Second, I must respect the opinions of others even if I disagree with them.
Throughout my long and rather busy career I have always held firmly to the belief that I owe life as much as it owes to me. If that philosophy is sound, and I believe it is, it applies, I hope, to all of my activities—to my home, to my daily work, to my polities, and above all things to my relationships to others.
Life is not a one-way street. What I do, what I say, even what I thank, inevitably has a direct effect on my relationships with others. I am certain that in the degree that my attitude towards others has given convincing proof of loyalty, sincerity, honesty, courtesy and fairness, I have encouraged in others the same attitude towards me. Respect begets respect, suspicion begets suspicion, hate begets hate. It has been well said that “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
None of the blessings of our great American heritage of civil liberties is self-executing. To make effective such things as brotherhood, kindliness, sympathy, human decency, the freedom of opportunity, the very preciousness of life—to make these things real requires respect and constant vigilance. This is the core of my American Faith.
As I have said, I believe I must help to safeguard to all men free expression of their views even though I may be in disagreement with them. I must listen to and study responsible views; sometimes I will learn much from them. No individual and no nation has a monopoly of wisdom or talent. When an individual or a nation becomes self-satisfied or complacent, it is time, I believe, to be deeply concerned. He who closes his ears to the views of others shows little confidence in the integrity of his own views.
There can be no question with regard to the inherent rights of Americans to enjoy equal economic opportunity in every field, to secure decent living conditions, adequate provision for the moral and spiritual development of their children, and free association with their fellow men as equals under the law and equals in the sight of God. These rights can be safeguarded and advanced only where men may think and speak freely.
I reject a fundamental principle of democracy if I seek to prevent a fellow citizen of different background from fully expressing his thoughts on any subject. I have tried to express a few of my own thoughts on this subject which is very close to me. I think that we will have good reason for optimism about the future of the American ideal as long as men can and will say, without fear, what they believe.
HERBERT H. LEHMAN has had a long and distinguished career in business and public life. For thirty years after his graduation from Williams College in 1899 he engaged in commercial, industrial, and banking activities. In 1928 he was elected Lieutenant Governor of New York, serving for four years. He was elected Governor and served ten years.
In 1943 he was chosen Director General of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration by the unanimous vote forty-four nations. This organization dispensed over three and a half billion dollars and saved millions of people from starvation. Decorated by many foreign governments for his services to humanity, he also holds the Distinguished Service Medal.
In 1949 he was elected United States Senator from New York to fill the unexpired term of Senator Robert F. Wagner, and in 1950 was re-elected for a full six-year term.