When Norman Vincent Peale died on Christmas Eve at age 95, America lost one of its most popular populists. Peale's book "The Power of Positive Thinking" not only sold millions of copies in more than three dozen languages, but it also served as the fountainhead for the flood of self-help books filling stores today.

Peale's approach was basic. Like Robert Fulghum, who rose to fame by writing "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," Peale saw the genius in lessons learned at his mother's knee. Yet the fallout of his "positive thinking" reaches from locker-room placards reading "You Gotta Believe!" to board room memos stressing "PMA."As a Christian minister, Peale - like Paul - emphasized faith. And that modest loaves-and-fishes meal fed the multitudes. His newspaper column "The Amazing Results of Positive Thinking" was a Deseret News staple in the '60s. His personal influence reached from the crack house to the White House. He never missed an opportunity to motivate.

When one skeptic asked if positive thinking worked 100 percent of the time in every single case, Peale shot back his response: "Yes."

Needless to say, the author also had his detractors. Over the years he was accused of "vulgarizing religion," of "establishing a cult of reassurance," of practicing pseudo-psychiatry and of making too much money. He was accused of bigotry - not unfairly - for opposing John F. Kennedy's candidacy because Kennedy might take too many cues from the Vatican.

Still, Peale's response to such charges was Pealesque:

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"Those fellows that take pot shots at you are really your friends," he said. "They help you think through what you say."

One would have been disappointed with less.

On the wall of Peale's study at Marble Collegiate Church hung his life-long motto: "Trust God and live a day at a time."

Today, that slogan serves him as a fitting epitaph.

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