This I Believe. The series was introduced in the 1950's by Edward R. Murrow who stated, "In this brief space, a banker or a butcher, a painter or a social worker ... will write about the rules they live by, the things they have found to be the basic values in their lives." It was brought back from 2005-2009.
You can search npr.org for the series and listen as both famous and ordinary Americans speak. Both the 1950's and the more contemporary ones are available.
You can also browse through either of the books in this display for a selection of essays to read.