In 1922, Napoleon Hill was invited to give the commencement address at Salem College in Salem, West Virginia. The school was founded in 1888 as a liberal arts, teacher education, and nursing college. Titled “The End of the Rainbow,” the commencement address was the most influential speech that Hill ever gave.
When Hill delivered the speech in 1922, he was thirty-nine years old and had many years’ experience in writing and speaking, but he was still several years away from publishing his first book. He was passionately focused on his speechmaking and lectured anywhere he could get an audience.
As Hill became better known, especially after he became a published author, his lectures were in great demand. In the archives of the Napoleon Hill Foundation are recorded the data of eighty-nine speeches he gave throughout the country—all in just one year. The 1922 speech Hill gave at Salem College inspired a letter he received years later from a member of Congress, Jennings Randolph. Hill was to mention this letter (available to read in the appendix of this book) in the introduction to his 1937 book Think and Grow Rich, and to print Randolph’s inspirational letter. Randolph won his seat in Congress in 1932, the same year that Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. Randolph introduced Hill to Roosevelt, and Hill became an unpaid advisor to the president during the Great Depression.
Written correspondence from the White House is contained in the Napoleon Hill Foundation’s archives. Randolph would later become a US Senator and a trustee of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. He died in 1998 and was the last member of Congress to have served in the beginning of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration.
The recovery of the newspaper account of the speech is the result of the diligent work of Dr. J. B. Hill, grandson of Napoleon Hill, who was able to obtain the speech from microfilm, and Dr. J. B. Hill’s wife, Nancy, who retyped it. The following is that speech.
Napoleon was an American self-help author. He is known best for his book Think and Grow Rich (1937) which is among the 10 best selling self-help books of all time. Hill’s works insisted that fervid expectations are essential to improving one’s life. Most of his books were promoted as expounding principles to achieve “success”.
Hill is, in modern times, a controversial figure. Accused of fraud, modern historians also doubt many of his claims, such as that he met Andrew Carnegie and that he was an attorney. Gizmodo has called him “the most famous conman you’ve probably never heard of”.
This speech explains the many things Napoleon Hill went through and is a great place to start to understand his work.
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