This I Believe

Liam Crowley


I believe in the power of literacy; of the written word, and the spoken word; of the power to change a species and a planet. The development of language is the mark of a species which has reached a level above that of “wild animal”. Spoken language gives the animals the power to communicate at a level much greater than that of body language and pheromones. It gives people the power to cooperate, to negotiate, to philosophize, to flirt, to argue, and everything in between. Spoken language gives birth to myths, legends, and stories of long ago when ancient things walked among us. It gives old ones the ability to inspire, amaze, and scare their young charges with stories of love, hate, trust, and betrayal. Spoken language is the conduit through which humans live their whole lives. It gives us the ability to interpret poems and song, the power to inspire others (and to be inspired), and the tools to evoke emotions in ourselves and the people around us.

But written language is a whole step beyond that. Written words and runes give people today the ability to see and understand what it was like thousands of years before they or their parents were born. History is expressed through written words. Records, literature, lyrics, stories, memoirs, biographies – everything anyone could conceive of – was created and refined by written words. Writing and the ability to read, especially, are widely considered to be one of the biggest powers a person can have. Enslaved people are usually unable to read, as forced illiteracy is one of the many things their captors use to keep and control them. In America the civil rights movement was kickstarted by people who could read and write, and who were able to use those abilities to help free themselves and their peers from oppression. Being able to read gives one the power to learn. “Knowledge is power,” or so the saying goes, but it really is true. In history it was always the learned ones who had the power. The rich and the powerful stayed that way by knowing how to read and, by so doing, keeping their enemies, actual and potential, from knowing how to wrest power from them. That is the power reading and writing can provide. The ability to rise above expectations, and above the fate some people might have been assigned at birth.


I believe in the power of literacy. When used correctly, it can give it’s wielder unimaginable wealth, power, and freedom.