Unit Five: Articulating Beliefs

This I Believe Audio Essay (Podcast)

As you may recall from this course’s early reading in the fall semester, in the ancientpolis, opinions were considered public, not private. They came from and were held by the community. NPR’s long-running “This I Believe” series adopts that ancient understanding of opinion. To re-introduce ourselves to one another, establish our own beliefs, to move this class from analysis and context into persuasion, deliberation, and advocacy, and to practice oral performance in another format, we will be composing, recording, and performing our own “This I Believe” audio essay. The end result will be a 3-4 minute podcast that you will upload onto your blog and to Canvas. We will use NPR’s prompt for our own and encourage you to consider submitting yours to NPR when you are finished.

Goals of this assignment include:

  1. To narrate a belief in an accessible, compelling way
  2. To develop skill at composing for the ear.
  3. To improve performance of a written (scripted) text

NPR’s prompt:

We invite you to contribute to this project by writing and submitting your own statement of personal belief. We understand how challenging this is–it requires such intimacy that no one else can do it for you. To guide you through this process, we offer these suggestions:

Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events of your life. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching–it can even be funny–but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: You have up to four minutes to articulate something that really matters to you. Carefully consider how to do that.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief, because three minutes is a very short time.

Be positive: Please avoid preaching or editorializing. Tell us what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person.

Be personal: Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

For this project, we are also guided by the original This I Believe series and the producers’ invitation to those who wrote essays in the 1950s. Their advice holds up well and we are abiding by it. Please consider it carefully in writing your piece.

 In introducing the original series, host Edward R. Murrow said, “Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent.” We would argue that the need is as great now as it was 50 years ago. We are eager for your contribution.

Here are some sources your instructor may use for class activities or discussions or that you may want to check out on your own:

Open Source Podcast interview with Jay Allison


NPR Press Release for This I Believe Series




Grading “This I Believe” – 100pts


Content – 60%

Do you follow the prompt/assignment description?


Do you tell a story?


Does your statement of belief make sense with the story you tell?


Do you get specific and personal in your articulation of the reason you offer for your belief? Could this only be your story?


While the story is specific to you, do you zoom out for a wider perspective that others can relate to or appreciate?


Does the writing engage the listener’s/reader’s senses?


Do you stay positive?


Delivery/Recording – 40%

Do you come across as genuine/authentic?


Is your delivery rehearsed and appropriately infused with your personality?


Is the recording of high quality, strong mic presences, free of mistakes, and consistent in volume?

Does your tone suit the content of your essay?