NORMAN VINCENT PEALE Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Name: Norman Vincent Peale                                                               
Born: 31 May 1898 Bowersville, Ohio                                                     
Died: 24 December 1993 Pawling, New York                                                 
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (May 31, 1898 - December 24, 1993) was a Protestant             
preacher and author (most notably of The Power of Positive Thinking) and a               
progenitor of the theory of "positive thinking".                                         
Peale was born in Bowersville, Ohio and died in Pawling, New York. He was               
educated at Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Theology.               
Raised as a Methodist and originally ordained as a Methodist minister in 1922,           
Peale changed his religious affiliation to the Reformed Church in America in             
1932 and began a 52-year tenure as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in                 
Manhattan. During that time the church's membership grew from 600 to over 5000,         
and he became one of New York City's most famous preachers.                             
Peale and Smiley Blanton, a psychoanalyst, established a religio-psychiatric             
outpatient clinic next door to the church. The two men wrote books together,             
notably Faith Is the Answer: A Psychiatrist and a Pastor Discuss Your Problems (1940).   
In 1951 this blend of psychotherapy and religion grew into the American                 
Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, with Peale serving as president and               
Blanton as executive director.                                                           
Peale started a radio program, "The Art of Living," in 1935, which lasted for 54         
years. Under sponsorship of the National Council of Churches he moved into               
television when the new medium arrived. In the meantime he had begun to edit the         
magazine Guideposts and to write books. It is possible that his sermons were             
mailed to around 750,000 people a month.                                                 
In 1945, Dr. Peale, his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale, and Raymond Thornburg, a             
Pawling, New York businessman founded Guideposts magazine, a non-denominational         
forum for celebrities and ordinary people to relate inspirational stories. For           
its launch, they raised $1,200 from Frank Gannett, founder of the Gannett               
newspaper chain, J. Howard Pew, a Philadelphia industrialist and Branch Rickey,         
owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers.                                                           
Peale was a prolific writer; The Power of Positive Thinking is by far his most           
widely read work. First published in 1952, it stayed on the New York Times               
bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks. The book has sold around 7 million           
copies and translated into several languages. Some of his other                         
popular works include The Art of Living, A Guide to Confident Living, The Tough-Minded   
Optimist, and Inspiring Messages for Daily Living.                                       
In 1947 Peale co-founded (along with educator Kenneth Beebe) The Horatio Alger           
Association. This organization aims to recognize and honor Americans who have           
been successful in spite of difficult circumstances they have faced.                     
Other organizations founded by Peale include the Peale Center, the Positive             
Thinking Foundation and Guideposts Publications, all of which aim to promote             
Peale's theories about positive thinking.                                               
In 1960 Peale, as spokesman for 150 Protestant clergymen, opposed the election           
of John F. Kennedy as president. "Faced with the election of a Catholic," Peale         
declared, "our culture is at stake." The uproar resulting from that                     
pronouncement caused the pastor to back off from further formal partisan                 
commitments, possibly to avoid offending part of the mass audience for his               
primary religio-psychological message. He was, however, politically and                 
personally close to President Nixon's family. In 1968 he officiated at the               
wedding of Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower. He continued calling at the White           
House throughout the Watergate crisis, saying "Christ didn't shy away from               
people in trouble."                                                                     
It has been argued that even his "positive thinking" message was by implication         
politically conservative: "The underlying assumption of Peale's teaching was             
that nearly all basic problems were personal."                                           
For his contributions to the field of theology, President Ronald Reagan awarded         
Peale the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the               
United States) on March 26, 1984. He died of stroke on December 24, 1993 at age