A Straight Wall Is Hard to Build

Crandall, Lou R. 1951-11-26

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Interview Participants
And now, This I Believe. The living philosophies of thoughtful men and women presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow
This I Believe. Beliefs like houses must be built on firm foundations if they are to weather the strong cold winds of adversity. Lou R. Crandall is president of the George A. Fuller Construction Company, whose buildings in nearly every large city in the United States are monuments to his ability as an engineer. That he has also built strong beliefs, Mr. Crandall now demonstrates.
As I try to outline my thoughts, the subject becomes more and more difficult. I have many
basic beliefs, but as I try to pick and choose, it seems to me that they can all be summarized in the word “character.” Obviously what you believe is a fundamental thing. There can be no fanfare, no embellishments. It must be honest.
An architect once told me that the most difficult structure to design was a simple, monumental shaft. The proportions must be perfect to be pleasing. The hardest thing to build is a plain, straight wall. The dimensions must be absolute. In either case, there is no ornamentation to hide irregularities, no moldings to cover hidden defects, and no supports to strengthen concealed weaknesses.
I’m using this example to illustrate human character, which, to me, is the most important, single power
in the world today. The young people of today are, in reality, foundations of structures yet to be built. It is obvious that the design of these human structures is the combined efforts of many human architects. Boys and girls are influenced first by their parents, then by their friends, and finally by their business associates. During this period of construction, the human character is revised and changed until, at maturity, a fairly well fixed form of character is found.
There are a few human straight walls and fewer human monumental shafts. Such men and women are personalities of great beauty and are so rare that history records their being and holds them up as examples for the future. The Biblical characters are, for me, the closest examples of human perfection.
They were unselfish, steadfast in their faith, and unstinted in their help to others. Today in this world of turmoil and trouble, we could use more of such people, but they do not just happen along. I believe that they are the result of concentrated effort on the part of the parents and associates, and the more we build with character, the better this world will become.
This may sound like a dreamer’s hope and a theoretical goal, which can never be reached. I do not think so. The world, as a whole, has progressed tremendously, material-wise, and we are a fortunate nation in that we are leading the possession. It is, I believe, natural that nations not so fortunate should look upon us with envy. We would do the same if the positions were reversed, so we should not judge too
harshly the efforts of others to equal our standard of living. In either case, the fortunate or the unfortunate character in the individual, and collectively in the nation, stands out.
I agree that it is easier to build character under ideal conditions, but not forget that character is also required to give, as well as to receive. It should be to the benefit of humanity if all individuals—and this includes myself—did a renovating or remodeling job on our own character; it may merely be a case of removing such rough edges or tossing away moldings to expose irregularities; in some cases to remove a prop and stand on one’s own feet. In any event, if some of us set the examples, others will follow, and the results should be good. This I believe.
You have heard Lou R. Crandall, native of Ohio, resident of New York, veteran of the first World War, and a man whose services for the Red Cross, the New York Cancer Association, and other welfare organizations prove that his beliefs are built for use not just for show.