This She Believes - Gladys Chang Hardy-Brazil '50
Readers of a certain vintage may recall Edward R. Murrow’s widely heralded radio show This I Believe, which aired in the early 1950s. The five-minute program provided a soapbox for individual citizens from all walks of life to express their views on the air.
The associate producer was a bright, ambitious woman in her mid-twenties with a most unusual background: born in Shanghai, China; moved to Hawaii with her family at the age of 12 during the Sino-Japanese War; moved again, after the attack on Pearl Harbor—she still remembers the awful sounds—to Claremont, California.
Today, This I Believe is being revived by National Public Radio. And the program’s 20-person advisory board includes the very same woman who served as associate producer on the original show over 50 years ago: Gladys Chang Hardy-Brazil ’50.
Hardy-Brazil, whose life has been filled with extraordinary accomplishments, is blessed with strong beliefs. And, like her first career mentor Edward R. Murrow, she believes the truth should be told and the voices of the people should be heard. She credits much of her success to the people she met and the experiences she had while a student at Sarah Lawrence College. “Helen Merrell Lynd (co-author of the groundbreaking study Middletown) had a great influence on how I think about issues and how I understand the world,” she says, also citing Joseph Campbell and Irving Goldman as especially noteworthy teachers. She gained confidence and honed her leadership skills as president of the student government during her junior year. “I became comfortable speaking in public and getting people to work together. Throughout my career I’ve always insisted that my staff work together in a collegial way.”
After graduation, Murrow encouraged his associate producer to apply for a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1953-56 to study overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asian countries—and she won. Other accomplishments: serving as associate producer of Life Magazine’s production of a multi-media presentation, The World We Live In; being the first staff member of the newly created National Endowment for the Humanities; working at the Ford Foundation as director of education and culture, where she helped establish a long-range planning process at some of the nation’s leading colleges and universities; consulting to clients ranging from the president of Teacher’s College at Columbia, to the president of the Children’s Defense Fund; and being named first public member of the National Public Radio Board of Directors. It’s a list that could go on and on.
What matters now, she says, is not the resume she compiled but the beliefs she holds.
On her This I Believe boss: “Edward R. Murrow was an extremely caring personality as well as a great intelligence source. He had the ability to inform the public about what was really going on in the world. During World War II, for example, he kept the nation informed as to what was going on in Europe. He had great principles and a deep love for his country.”
On the media today: “Today there’s too much dissembling going on and too much twisting in the media. The public has a right to know what’s really happening in the world.”
On today’s U.S. foreign policy: “Our foreign policy stance is too arrogant. We cannot tell the rest of the world how their societies should be run; after all, democracy means different things in different places. We should lead by example.”
On listening: “Murrow had it right: We must listen, really listen, to the opinions of citizens both home and abroad.”
On education policy: “Some features in the No Child Left Behind policy are helpful, but problems remain. For example, we must fully fund the mandates in special education. Testing matters, but we should not teach to the test. Students must learn to think well, write well and speak well. And we must support teachers.”
Gladys Chang Hardy-Brazil may be officially “retired,” but her actions hint otherwise. As noted, she serves on the Advisory Board of the revived This I Believe program and attended the first meeting of the board last May in Washington, DC. The meeting was to inform the members not involved in the original show about its impact and the aspirations of this revival on National Public Radio. She splits her time between Sherman, Connecticut, and Strafford, Vermont, keeping in touch with her children and grandchildren.
In any event, don’t put Gladys Chang Hardy-Brazil in the retired column quite yet. She’s just taking the next step on her most remarkable journey.—David Treadwell