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Acres of Diamonds

One of the greatest speeches of all time is Russell Conwell's "Acres of Diamonds." Conwell delivered this speech over 6,000 times to paying audiences. That was back in the days when competition to give speeches was stiff because lectures were a major form of entertainment as well as education. This was in the era from late Reconstruction to just after World War I. Commercial radio did not appear until 1920. The movies had not been invented during most of this period.

Conwell became a multimillionaire giving this speech. That was back when the dollar had 20 times the purchasing power of today's dollar. He used most of his money to found Temple University in Philadelphia--Bill Cosby's alma mater. This is why his speech is posted on Temple University's Web site. If you haven't yet read this inspirational story I would highly encourage you to do so.

Conwell began with a story. The story had been told to him in 1870 while he was on a trip in the Middle East. The story was about a rich man who had sold his home and goods, and then used the money to go in search of diamonds. He spent all of his money and all of his life in that quest. He never found any diamonds. The punch line of the story was this: the man who had bought the home from the diamond searcher did find diamonds. They were in the backyard.

Whether the story was ever verified, Conwell never said, but he used that story to launch a classic motivational speech on how to get rich. He used example after example of poor Americans who got rich by the power of observation. They looked around them to see what people needed. Then they sold it to them.

Conwell was adamant: opportunities exist all around us because people with needs are all around us. There are as many opportunities as there are people with needs. In business, a need must be accompanied by money. They needy must be able to buy. Conwell was talking about business, but his general observation about observation applies to every area of life. There are many opportunities for service to people without money.

Temple University

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