The Man Who Created Donald Trump?


In this month’s issue of First Things, Matthew Schmitz makes a startling connection:

In his late twenties, Trump began attending Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue. Founded in 1628 in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, Marble Collegiate is one of the few institutions that survives from the city’s founding… Here Trump walked down the aisle after exchanging vows with Ivana and heard the sermons of Norman Vincent Peale, a man whose philosophy would become Trump’s own.

Norman Vincent Peale of course was one of the most famous and popular American clergymen of the twentieth century, right up there with Billy Graham and Fulton J. Sheen. But while those men represented Evangelicals and Catholics, Peale was a liberal Protestant. The way of life he proclaimed, summed up in his ever popular self-help book The Power of Positive Thinking was a secularized version of Christianity with little to say about sin, redemption, or even Christ himself for that matter.

Trump was a big fan:

Before Trump made his own foray into politics, he read Peale’s book and adopted its program of “positive thinking.” The two men began to trade public compliments. Peale, always generous in his assessments of human nature, said that Trump had a “profound streak of honest humility.” Trump, not exactly showing that humble streak, said that Peale “thought I was his greatest student of all time.” In a certain sense, Trump was right. Peale has had no more perfect disciple.

Schmitz draws a clear parallel between Trump’s approach and Peale’s: patriotic, self-sufficient, upbeat, self promoting, focused on winning, unshadowed by regret or repentance. Trump is just a more vulgar and combative version of Peale, carrying his program of positive thinking to its ultimate conclusion.

Read the whole thing.



  1. There’s another one who I’m 100% sure influenced him. Ever heard of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”? It’s by Robert Cialdini and is an outline, chapter by chapter, of how Trump functions. I think it first came out in the early 80’s.

    1. Likely. Visit Scott Adams (creator of the Dilbert comics) blog; he spends a lot of time describing Trump’s persuasive abilities.

  2. Fascinating, because I had a patient last year who insisted I read The Power of Positive Thinking. That was his religion. He’d found Peale some 40 years ago. We had many long discussions about it. I was disturbed by the cult of personality, the lack of need for repentance and a Savior, and the focus on success and power.

    Also,Trump doesn’t drink coffee. That’s just wrong. No wonder I distrust the man. 🙂

    1. One of the nicest guys I ever met was a big believer in Peale. He was in his 80s, wealthy, upbeat, played water polo every day, etc. Maybe it works for some people, but Trump shows just how incomplete it is.

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