No. 1210



While it is much too late to tell him in person, I am thankful and truly indebted to the late Dale Carnegie. This “icon” of the public speaking profession passed away back in 1955 in Queens, New York, but while he was here on earth for 66 years, he made a difference in the lives of thousands and thousands of people who took his famous Dale Carnegie Course.
Born into poverty in 1888 in Maryville, Missouri, he overcame an unbelievably harsh childhood and early life to discover that success comes from people skills and public speaking ability more often than knowledge acquired from a formal education. His book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” has sold more than five million copies.
What follows is just one story of what can happen in a person’s life when he can overcome the fear of speaking in public and, over time, become very proficient and skillful in this desired attribute. Back in 1935, 2,500 men and women packed the grand ballroom of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. These people had been lured there by a newspaper ad that appeared two days earlier in the New York Sun. The ad said that 18 people who had taken the Dale Carnegie Course would be marshalled in front of a loudspeaker and given precisely 75 seconds to tell his story about what the course had meant to him.
Here is the 75-second story of Godfrey Meyer, who was a gray-headed banker and the father of 11 children. The first time he had attempted to speak in class, he was literally struck dumb. His mind refused to function. His story is a vivid illustration of how leadership gravitates to the person who can talk. He worked on Wall Street, and for 25 years he had been living in Clifton, New Jersey. During that time, he had taken no active part in community affairs and knew perhaps 500 people.
Shortly after he had enrolled in the Carnegie course, he received his tax bill and was infuriated by what he considered unjust charges. Ordinarily, he would have sat at home and fumed, or he would have taken it out in grousing to his neighbors. But instead he put on his hat that night, walked into the town meeting, and blew off steam in public. As a result of his talk of indignation, the citizens of Clifton, New Jersey, urged him to run for town council.
For weeks he went from one meeting to another, denouncing waste and municipal extravagance. There were 96 candidates in the field. When the ballots were counted, lo, Godfrey Meyer’s name led all the rest. Almost overnight, he had become a public figure among the 40,000 people in his community. As a result of his talks, he made 80 times more friends in six weeks than he had been able to previously in 25 years.
You may or may not know that the Dale Carnegie course was what gave me my start and has been very good for me. As a college drop-out, I took the course back in 1968 and won the “gavel” as the leader of the course. Two years later my instructor, the late Bob Gannaway, came to me and asked me to go into business with him to distribute the Earl Nightingale Attitude Motivation Courses on cassette tape. Happy to say, I accepted his offer.
This provided me the opportunity to give hundreds of speeches and the rest is history – over 1,700 speeches, the “How to Plan Your Life” daily radio program, a nationally syndicated newspaper column, and my greatest joy, the Bookcase for Every Child project that is all volunteer and “giving back.” To this I can only say, “To God be the Glory and Thank God for Dale Carnegie.”
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)