Joel Belz: Trust but verify

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, November 7th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Remember this?

AUDIO: We have listened to the wisdom in an old Russian maxim. Though my pronunciation may give you difficulty, the maxim is, ‘doveryai no proveryai.’

[Russian speaking]

[translator] You repeat that at every meeting!

EICHER: WORLD founder Joel Belz now on the meaning of that famous moment in Cold War history—and its application to the issue of believability.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: “Trust, but verify.”

The three-word bit of wisdom has been widely reported as coming from Ronald Reagan—his mind as well as his mouth. But it isn’t so. Some reporter somewhere was too quick to trust and too slow to verify. Others followed.

The proverb in fact finds its origins in Russia. The phrase became well known in English only when Reagan used it in the context of missile and nuclear disarmament talks. The proverb’s close association with Reagan came in 1987 when he jovially quoted it to Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland.  

But wait! In just my set up I’ve managed to affirm or deny half a dozen facts having to do with a brief adage. Maybe you believed what I’ve told you—or maybe not. Did you used to think Ronald Reagan was the original source of the “trust-but-verify” phrase? Did my reporting help change your mind?

If you can’t believe your eyes, when you’re reading or watching the news, what possible benefit have you achieved?

Believability. When I’m talking with friends, I like to ask them what they like most about WORLD Magazine. And that’s the word I hear most often in response.

But much as I like the sound of the word, it makes me quiver and shake. Believability takes a long time to achieve and only an instant to lose.

WORLD operates on a platform of trust with its readers and listeners.

WORLD members tell us, again and again how they trust us to pursue our role as truth-tellers. Getting casual and careless about that truth-telling assignment has left the major news media in free fall these days.

Once powerful news magazines, daily newspapers, and national newscasts on radio and television have joined hands in a politically correct rejection of the traditional and historic foundations of our culture. In doing so, they are losing the trust of former customers.

You WORLD members have actually moved the other direction. Instead of backing off in protest, some 20 percent of you go well beyond your initial membership commitment. To that, you have generously added a further expression of trust with your charitable gifts.

You’ve trusted us, and then our magazines, online news and podcasts along the way have helped you verify that trust. Some of you have chosen to give $25 monthly, others give $5,000 or more once or twice a year. Every single gift is valuable and useful in helping thoughtful people who want to understand the day’s news more clearly.

Are you ready to express your own trust in WORLD? I urge you to give a tax-deductible online gift today at

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

(Photo/ National Archives and Records Administration, WikiMedia Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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