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On A Note Of Triumph

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Dear friends,

Norman Corwin, who died yesterday at 101, and I never met. But there are only a handful of people in my life who exerted as much influence.

I can’t say when I first heard his voice. It may have been in the 1950s. But I heard his voice and his use of words throughout junior high and high school. To say he had an enormous impact on my writing and speaking voices would be an understatement. It was through his work that I first discovered that cadence and the sound of words were every bit as important as their meaning in both written and spoken form.

Martin Luther King, whose memorial was dedicated this weekend, was a better public speaker, perhaps, but it is more often Corwin’s voice I hear in my head when I am composing something–and when I am speaking off the cuff before a group I model the use of sound and cadence on both of them. But I am less than a pale imitation of either one.

Both men also had a great influence on the development of my thinking processes. They made clear to me that there are no simple solutions to any social issue–and underlined the importance of even the smallest voice in the life of civil society. King filled me with the power of vision and dream, but Corwin taught me the importance of doing “a little civil thinking every day,” and a little social acting. Sometimes we get caught up in the importance of the Obamas and the McCains and the Bushes and Clintons and Reagans. We forget the true power of the individual–and the importance of the ordinary citizen.

Jane’s story is that story–the story of the quiet individual who never becomes famous in life but through whose actions much good comes.

On May 8, 1945–VE Day–Corwin’s On a Note of Triumph aired on CBS Radio. I had not listened to even part of it in years–I am not convinced I ever heard the whole thing without interruption before today. By the end my face was wet with tears–but my heart was filled with hope.

I know our lives are busy. We lurch from sound bite to sound bite, from errand to errand, from class to class, from patient to patient. But take an hour today. Go to the NPR archive where the tape of that broadcast is. Sit yourself down and just listen to the story. It has a second or two that ring a bit too bright-eyed–a bit too hokey–but most of it could have been written today–and is just as important today as it was then.

And what it says is something we all need to hear–and remember.




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I had not heard of him, it all being much before I was born...my older sisters used to listen to radio when they were little, I'll have to ask them if they remember him. He certainly is articulate!

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Thank you for posting that. I saved the site and will listen later today. You looked a little tired last night. Are you following the advice you gave me to follow, eat well, and healthy foods, get rest. I have followed your advice and feel better than I have in 5 years.

I watched a program, last night about our founding fathers of this great nation. It sounds like Corwin was just as great of a man and a thinker just like our founding fathers. I do not watch the news much anymore. It seems like just the same thing over and over again. They cannot work together and only want what they can get for themselves, and not the people or the good of the country.

God Bless


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Dear Dwayne,

Over what I have control--eating, drinking, exercising and going to bed--I am fine. I just am not sleeping well. That has to do with strange dreams as much as anything else. When you wake up at 3 a.m. with a dream that makes you think, getting back to sleep is not always easy.

And when you are exchanging apples with your wife in those dreams, sleep can also prove evasive.

Thanks for your concern. My plan is to spend much of this weekend doing social things that have to do with things besides fighting cancer.



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