Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was a Methodist clergyman and gathered a large following with his charismatic personality and preaching style through radio and TV sermons. The author of best-sellers, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ and ‘A Guide to Confident Living’, he was one of the most credible clergymen of the 20th century. Peale had a very humble beginning and worked hard to build a future for himself and his family. It would have been impossible to believe that a young boy, who worked many odd jobs like delivering newspapers, working in a grocery store and selling pots and pans door to door, would grow to become an award-winning author and rise to prominence as a cleric. An alumnus of Ohio Wesleyan University, he developed his positive thinking/positive confession philosophy just to help his inferiority complex, which he suffered from, as a child. His simple, optimistic and dynamic sermons went on for 54 years through his weekly radio program, ‘The Art of Living’. His life also became the subject of a 1964 movie entitle, ‘One Man’s Way’. He also started another publication, called ‘Guideposts Magazines’ with his wife, which to date, tops 4.5 million copies in circulation, the highest for any religious publication. Apart from ‘The Art of Living’, he has authored, ‘Confident Living’ and ‘This Incredible Century’.
Childhood & Early Life
The oldest of three sons, Norman Vincent Peale was raised and educated in Bowersville, Ohio, where he studied at Bellefontaine High School. He also earned his degree at Ohio Wesleyan University and the Boston University School of Theology.
He was raised as a Methodist and was ordained as the Methodist Minister in 1922. However, he changed his religious affiliation to the Reformed Church of America in 1932. He eventually gained popularity and became of New York’s most famous preachers.
He organized the radio program, ‘The Art of Living’ in 1935, which lasted for over 54 years and broadcasted his sermons.
He established a psychiatric outpatient clinic next to the Reformed Church of America, with a friend, Smiley Blanton, who was a psychoanalyst. The duo worked together and authored the book, ‘Faith is the Answer: A Psychiatrist and a Pastor Discuss your Problems’ in 1940.
In 1945, he founded ‘Guideposts Magazine’, a forum to discuss inspirational stories, with his wife.
In 1947, Peale co-founded the Horatio Alger Association along with Kenneth Beebe.
In 1951, the clinic grew into the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, where he served as the President and his friend served as the executive director.
His first major work, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ was published in 1952 and became an instant best-seller overnight, although it was deemed controversial.
In 1960, as spokesman for Protestant Clergymen, he opposed the election of John F. Kennedy.
He authored ‘The Positive Power of Jesus’ in 1980.
‘The Art of Living’, a radio program, which started in 1935, is considered one of his biggest works. The program lasted for 54 years and was his unique medium of sharing sermons to the rest of America.
In 1945, he founded ‘Guideposts Magazine’ with his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale. The inaugural issue sold over 10,000 copies and is today, among the top 30 magazines in the United States, with a circulation of 2 million copies.
His most popular book, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, published in 1952, has sold more than 20 million copies around the world and has been translated in 41 different languages. Considered his magnum opus, this publication is one of his most-widely read works and was included in ‘New York Bestseller’ list for 186 weeks.
Awards & Achievements
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan, for his contributions in the field of theology, on March 26, 1984.
Personal Life & Legacy
Norman Vincent Peale was very close to President Nixon and his family. He officiated the wedding of Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower.
He was a member of the Scottish Rite Freemason.
He suffered a stroke and passed away in Pawling, New York.
He has been referred to in the song, ‘The John Birch Society’ by Chad Mitchell Trio.