“I Believe” Memoir: Recalling Personal Experience

Whether in a job interview, a profile, a mentorship, a personal statement or networking in the field, your ability to share aspects of your life and your beliefs in an engaging way is at the heart of this memoir assignment.
For this assignment, you are being asked to contribute to the “This I Believe” project, which was founded by This I Believe, Inc., in 2004 as an independent, not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.
This I Believe is based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow. Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists, and secretaries—anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. These essayists’ words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and racial division.
For this assignment, your audience is a general, educated audience who listens to podcasts and is interested in who you are.
GENRE: A “This I Believe” essay is a personal essay that explores the foundations of our core values—the principles that guide our lives. This essay encourages people to participate in a critical thinking exercise with the added benefit of allowing students the luxury of exploring their core beliefs and the things that have shaped who they are.
PROMPT: For this assignment, you are being invited to contribute to the “This I Believe” Project. For the invitation, see: https://thisibelieve.org/history/invitation/
Tell a story about you: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events that have shaped your core values. 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: Your statement should be between 500 and 600 words. That’s about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.
ANALYSIS: At the end of your essay include two developed, focused paragraphs that analyze the writing choices and craft elements you specifically employed; where did you observe/learn them, how and why did you implement them, and what function or effect do these techniques and strategies bring to writing in general, this genre in particular and your reader experience specifically?
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.
Be positive: Write about what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing.
* Adapted from John Trimbur’s The Call to Write, 4th edition
“I Believe” Memoir: Recalling Personal Experience
Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Tell a story from your own life; this is not an opinion piece about social ideals. 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.
Brainstorming, part 1: It helps to find a specific experience or two that led to your belief.
Then, imagine that you’re conversing with someone. You need to narrate the
story about how you to came your belief .
• What is the story or specific experience that led you to your belief? It can
be anything: an item of clothing, words of advice your mother gave you, or
losing at a soccer tournament.
• How would you describe your experience? What are the sights, sounds,
smells, tastes, and/or touches associated with your experience?

Brainstorming, part 2 :The takeaway: The key fact, point, or idea that you want your audience
to remember about your belief.

• How does this experience continue to influence your life?
• What does your belief mean to you?
• What are rules that govern your belief?
E.g., my belief in public service has led me to study . . .
How would you answer these 3 questions?
I know I am the way I am today because______.
I know I think about things the way I do because
_______.
I think most people would describe me as ______.

“This I Believe” Grading Rubric
Tell a story about you: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events that have shaped your core values. 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: Your statement should be between 500 and 600 words. That’s about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.
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.
Be positive: Write about what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing.
Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Tell a story from your own life; this is not an opinion piece about social ideals. 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.

4
6
8
10
Did you name your belief?

Belief statement is not evident.
Multiple beliefs are listed with little development.
Core belief is clearly stated with evidence of development.
One core belief is explicit and developed throughout essay.
Purpose: Did you tell a story about you
Tells a story that is not connected to the belief or does not tell a story.
Tells a story that is somewhat connected to the belief, but is difficult to follow.
Tells a story that is connected to the belief.
Tells a story that is grounded in the events of everyday life; links to your belief and to the shaping of your core values
Macro analysis – What were you trying to do?
Organization/
Transition

Demonstrates limited or no organization; does not stay on topic; limited or no transitional devices.
Demonstrates ineffective organization; attempts to refer to a single topic; transitional devices are limited.
Demonstrates organization; maintains focus throughout; uses a variety of transitional devices.
Demonstrates unique or effective organization; maintains focus throughout; uses a variety of transitional devices uniquely/effectively.
Macro Analysis– How were you trying to do it?
Details/
Elaboration

Lacks details for the belief or details do not enhance the belief.
Limited use of details; details tell rather than show.
Effective use of relevant details support the belief; details mostly show rather than tell
Unique, rich, insightful, and effective use of details to support belief; details effectively show rather than tell – show, don’t tell
Point of View and Tone: Were you personal and positive?
Uses second person (you) point of view. Tone is unclear or negative
Inconsistent use of first-person point of view. Tone preaches or judges
Mostly consistent use of first-person point of view. Tone is mostly personal and
positive.
Consistent use of first-person point of view. Tone is consistently personal
and positive