Monday, November 03, 2008

Quote of the Day: "The Road to Self-Renewal"

"Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account." --John W. Gardner (1912-2002)

As president of the Carnegie Corporation, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Johnson, founder of Common Cause, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, John Gardner was a leader in every sense of the word. The above quotation comes from a speech he gave at an executive conference in Kona, Hawaii in April of 1993 titled The Road to Self-Renewal, subsequently published in the March 1994 issue of Stanford alumni magazine.


  1. I am so, so glad I took the time to read through this entire speech. Wow. I cried reading the paragraph the young woman kept in her wallet. I just love, "meaning is something you build into your life." And that meaning is defined by you and only you... that is so powerful. I will be printing that out and keeping it... it struck me so deeply.
    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. What a lovely surprise, Prill. Gardner's book was the first book on creative writing I ever read. I can't remember the title but it was full of secrets for writing short stories and before I read him, I had only written news stories. In that sense, I credit him with the wonderful creative outlet that creative writing has afforded me.

    Thank you for the memories.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Author of the award-winning Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered

  3. Thanks Barbara & Carolyn. I hesitated to post the entire speech. Knowing how busy everyone is these days and how much more tedious it is to read on-line text versus print, I try to keep my postings short. But I wasn't able to find an authoritative, on-line version of the speech. I discovered a PDF file of it, but no easy way to link there.

    Anyway, I know it's a long read; but considering the topic of my blog, I felt it would be worthwhile to post. People, after all, always have the option of ignoring my postings.