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Remembering the Father of Positive Thinking

The author of the groundbreaking pamphlet The Power of Positive Thinking is memorialized as a true optimistic thinker by his daughter, Elizabeth.

Norman Vincent Peale

My father loved lilacs. The flowers bloomed each year in our town—Pawling, New York—around the time of his birthday, May 31.

He’d look out the window of our rambling old farmhouse and see the bushes growing heavy with the purple and white blossoms, their scent wafting across the porch. Then he’d turn to my brother, John, my sister, Margaret, and me and say with a twinkle in his eye, “Don’t you think we need to go for a drive?”

The annual lilac drive. This was as much a birthday ritual for my father as blowing out the candles on his cake. Over the years we had come up with the perfect route, past quaint cottages with towering bushes, along quiet streets where the lilacs formed hedges in front of stately Victorians.

“Notice,” Dad said, “how the lilac does not discriminate in spreading its beauty.” It looked just as stunning in a hardscrabble yard as it did on the clipped lawn of a country estate.

His last birthday in 1993, Dad was 95 years old. There was much to celebrate in his long, amazing life. The dozens of books he wrote, the sermons and talks he gave all over the world, his extraordinary partnership with my mother, including the founding of this very magazine. You can see his name on the masthead—Norman Vincent Peale—and I’m proud to continue his work as the new chairman of Guideposts, succeeding my mother, who at 97 is now chairman emeritus.

At this time of year I remember my father best when I take my own lilac drive. I see many of the same bushes we admired back then, dripping over a stone wall or lining a winding drive, and I remember what he noticed most about lilacs. God’s beauty is everywhere, for all of us.

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