Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has chosen an early Thanksgiving episode of The Guiding Light, as the show was then known, to be added to the National Recording Registry, citing its cultural, historical, and aesthetic importance to America's sound heritage.
The episode chosen aired on November 22, 1945, and is described by the Library of Congress as follows:
"The Guiding Light was the longest-running scripted program in broadcast history, running from 1937 until 2009 on radio and television. The program was notable as an archetype of the highly populated radio 'soap opera' genre and as a breakthrough success of the innovative and prolific scriptwriter, Irna Phillips, whom many credit with inventing the genre. Although the later TV series revolved around the Bauer family [in Springfield], the original radio version focused on the Rev. John Ruthledge [Arthur Peterson, Jr.] and his congregation in the fictional community of Five Points. Ruthledge's reading lamp, visible to all who passed his house, was the program's namesake. Of the show's hundreds of episodes, the registry adds this installment aired on the first Thanksgiving after the conclusion of World War II. With Ruthledge still serving overseas as a chaplain, his friend, the Rev. Dr. Frank Tuttle, gives a moving sermon to a packed church."
As explained by the LoC, with Dr. Ruthledge still overseas, it was the perfect opportunity for Phillips to distill the lessons of the war years in the voice of Dr. Tuttle. The November 22 episode begins with Dr. Tuttle worrying that few will attend church that day to hear a Thanksgiving sermon that he has poured his heart into. But when he reaches the church, he sees that it's full! With great conviction, Dr. Tuttle delivers the following sermon:
"We're all proud of our American way of life. Of our American system of government. Our American way of doing things. We're all more or less conscious that it is the great reservoir from which all our blessings flow. But what will happen to that reservoir, let me ask you, if the springs of faith, effort, and self-reliance which nourish it are allowed to dry up? No. We owe a lot to the past, friends, and the wisdom and courage and resourcefulness of our fathers, our grandfathers, and forefathers. But in the last analysis, we must find within ourselves the means of our own salvation.
"Our American way of life will work only as long as you and I make it work. The blessings we enjoy will continue only as long as we appreciate their value, and prove worthy of them.
"And now, just one other thought. You know our ancestors at Plymouth who started this Thanksgiving Day custom took an oath when they set out to conquer the wilderness, to cling together as brothers whatever fortune might bring. The community spirit was very strong among them, and among all the other pioneers who opened up and settled this country. And that bond of brotherhood endures today and must endure tomorrow. It was the source of our greatest strength during the war. And now that peace has come, it must continue to serve us and be our mainstay for the future. We cannot live as hermits, friends, each going his way apart. We cannot live for ourselves alone, forsaking the common good.
"My neighbor and I are in league together. Whatever affects him must in the end affect me, be it good or bad. His needs, his welfare, his success or failure are mine, and mine are his. We shall stand or fall together. Our country shall prosper or sicken depending on our mutual sympathy and good will. For believe me, it is so: the brotherhood of man is not an idle dream, but the only practical hope and certain safeguard of our community, our nation and the world."
Reverend Tuttle then returns to the Edwin Markham poem A Creed that defined the outlook of Irna Phillips and her character, Dr. Ruthledge, when the show premiered. "As my good friend Dr. Ruthledge of Five Points used to say: There is a destiny that makes us brothers; none goes his way alone; All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own."
The iconic 1945 GL episode joins many other recordings that have been added to the National Recording Registry, including recordings from Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Marlo Thomas, Kool & the Gang, Labelle, Connie Smith, Nas, Phil Rizzuto, Jimmy Cliff, and Kermit the Frog. This year's selections span the years 1878 (a tinfoil recording of the voice of Thomas Edison) to 2008 (an episode of This American Life, which is the first podcast recording to be honored in the 23-year history of the registry). To see the complete list, click here.
What do you think about the Library of Congress adding the 1945 Thanksgiving episode of Guiding Light to the National Recording Registry? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.