Yes We CAN DO! A Story About Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Les Brown, Pretty Woman and the Chinese Bamboo Tree

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Charles Betterton and Les Brown at the Community Unity Celebration, May 11, 1990, Kankakee, Illinois. Test

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Charles Betterton and Les Brown at the Community Unity Celebration, May 11, 1990, Kankakee, Illinois

Photo by David Merkel of Colonial Studio in Bourbonnais, IL

Together, Yes We CAN DO! A story about Norman Vincent Peale, Pretty Woman, Les Brown, and the Chinese Bamboo Tree by Charles E. Betterton.

Almost 20 years ago on May 11, 1990, I was blessed with the opportunity to produce a Community Unity Celebration with Norman Vincent Peale and Les Brown. This year, on the 20th anniversary of that historic event that is still producing results, Ultimate Destiny will present the highest award in the Ultimate Destiny Hall of Fame Award to the Peale Center for Christian Living on behalf of Dr. Peale and Ruth Stafford Peale.” Charles Betterton

My dream is to manifest faithful, grateful stewardship over the rich talents and treasures entrusted to me and my team by God to help millions of people A.R.K. — Awaken to their true spiritual identity; Realize more of their God-given potential and Know how to manifest their ultimate destiny.

As a co-founder of several God-inspired companies and affiliated non-profit organizations that share a vision and mission of Expanding the Circle of Success to help people learn how to learn, how to love and how to life more successfully, you could say that our purpose is to help others discover and actualize their dreams.

My dream was “birthed” when my Mother gave me The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale when I was just 16. She was praying that it would get through to me as I was not exactly “walking the path” at that time. About 30 years later, I experienced what it feels like to have one’s efforts “Crowned with the Ultimate Success of the Lord” when I produced my first major Community Unity Event with Dr. Peale and Mrs. Peale and Les Brown in Kankakee, IL.

Following is the story about that path and process.

An amazingly simple formula for success has been discovered by one of the most brilliant, and humble, researchers in the field of success and achievement. What was so humbling when I made the discovery is just how simple the success formula really is …

Seriously, after twenty-five years as a student and teacher of success principles, I have identified three factors that I believe determine our level of success in any area of life. These are (1) the clarity of our vision, (2) the definiteness of our purpose and (3) the appropriateness of our attitudes and actions. The purpose of this story is to share a similar discovery that the power of positive thinking espoused by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and the power of a larger vision taught by Les Brown are as applicable to organizations and communities as they are to individuals.

I first heard the story about the Chinese bamboo tree from Les Brown in 1992 during a Community Unity Celebration we were producing in Gary, Indiana. Les explained that after you plant the seeds of the Chinese bamboo tree, it has to be watered on a regular basis until the seeds sprout, in about five years after planting them. Then when the bamboo tree finally shoots forth, it grows to full maturity of 90 feet tall in about 40 days.

The story of the Chinese bamboo tree helped me understand that everything is always in Divine Order no matter how things may seem to appear. The essence of the story is about rising above the negativity of people telling you you’re wasting your time and energy for years pursuing a project when there is no apparent evidence of any result.

I immediately resonated with the message of needing to have patience, to hold the vision, to reestablish your faith. At that time, I was frustrated about how long it was taking for several community projects I was involved in to come to fruition. Four years earlier, I had conducted a meeting for community leaders in Kankakee, Illinois, to present a vision of six proposed interrelated community economic development initiatives.

One of the proposals was to develop a program to be called Kankakee County Can Do! to produce an ongoing series of motivational and development training programs to address negative thinking and publicity about the area. Two weeks before our first widely promoted Community Unity Celebration in May of 1990 featuring Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Les Brown, only about 25% of the Paramount Theater’s 1,122 seats had been sold. As the originator of the idea who had convinced dozens of residents to participate in various capacities in a project that many people felt was apparently destined to be a failure, I spent many sleepless nights, praying, planning, and wondering what else we could do to ensure the success of the program.

Community Unity was not only the theme of the event, it was our mission and purpose. We were located in a county that had suffered the loss of thousands of high paying jobs in the 1980’s, resulting in severe economic problems, negative publicity and depression. Someone had even had bumper stickers printed that read “Will the last one leaving town turn out the lights.”

After making a few phone calls to several outlets to find out if they knew why tickets weren’t selling, we learned that many people in the community had not bought tickets because they did not believe Dr. Peale would come to a small city of only 25,000 people like Kankakee. They apparently assumed that the presentation would be a video or a film since the event was being held in the newly remodeled Paramount Theater in the heart of the downtown redevelopment area. The marquee listed Dr. Peale and Les Brown’s appearance along with the movie Pretty Woman which was opening there that night just after our program was scheduled to end.

As soon as we learned about this latest in what seemed like a never ending series of unexpected challenges, we called Dr. Peale’s office and explained the situation. He graciously sent letters to both local newspapers expressing how he was looking forward to visiting our community. We also reprinted posters and fliers with large type “Appearing live and in person.”

NVP Letter Before Event

In a major newspaper article three days before the event, it was being hailed as a success even if people did not attend as was expected given slow ticket sales. That was because we had successfully managed to build a team of sponsors that included two local hospitals that had been aggressively competing with one another, two local chambers of commerce that were embroiled in a controversy over whether one should merge with the other, and we had obtained the participation of two major ministerial organizations (one white and one African American) that had not worked together before.

The night of the event, the streets were packed with cars and the air was filled with anticipation and excitement. The program was an outstanding success, with standing room only. About 1,200 hundred people from over 60 communities traveled for as long as four hours to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the event represented to them.

During the intermission, scores of people lined up backstage to share some personal story with Dr. Peale about how he had had a major impact in their life. Listening to the emotional stories helped me understand that the success and significance of the event could not be truly evaluated in terms of numbers or income. The really meaningful benefits were being realized backstage as I witnessed the impact of Dr. Peale’s legacy of helping millions of people learn how to apply positive thinking in their daily lives.

It was a privilege to have played a role in bringing all this forth and I experienced a deep sense of joy and a glimpse of what it feels like to have one’s efforts “Crowned with the Ultimate Success of the Lord.” In fact, I am developing a book and workshop by that title.

Our audience responded so positively to Dr. Peale and Les Brown that the program ran well over the allotted time and we had to scramble around rearranging the stage and screen so the hundreds of people waiting out front could get in to see Pretty Woman.

The overwhelming success of the program was featured in a major front page article the following Sunday. Although the event only made a net profit of $3, the seeds of success had been planted and watered. Like the story of the Chinese bamboo tree, the growth was finally becoming evident even though the project’s evolution over five years seemed unproductive and unfruitful.

For more information on the mission and purpose of the Community Unity Celebration, please visit the page on Community Unity. For some of the main newspaper articles that ran before and after the May 11, 1990 program, please see the page of Articles. They include a few about the 22,000 square foot Community Resource Center that evolved out of the Community Unity Celebration and that won the Governor’s Home Town Award.

The CAN DO! model was developed in conjunction with CENTER SPACE, the Center for Spiritual, Personal And Community Enlightenment, a nonprofit organization established to help people, organizations and communities see, believe and achieve all they can be, do and have. CENTER SPACE is now helping other communities learn how to apply the model through You CAN DO! Too, a workbook that contains all the procedures, forms and promotional materials.

In a recent workshop on Solving Our Personal, Community and Global Success Puzzles, Ultimate Destiny University asked participants to brainstorm answers to the following question:

“Given the global economic and environmental crises, what attitudes and skills can help us discern and apply more positive, creative, conscious and sustainable approaches?”

Here are some of the answers we received:

Awakening to our spiritual identity.

Realizing more of our inherent potential.

Harnessing our creative mind power.

Flowing our energy to solutions rather than problems.

Remembering who we really are and why we are here.

Fulfilling our life purposes and missions.

Making a difference and leaving a legacy.

Loving, serving and blessing others.

Maintaining a positive mental attitude.

Applying creative thinking and problem-solving.

Manifesting stewardship over the rich talents and treasures entrusted to us by God/Spirit/Source/Creator.

As a result of the feedback, we are launching a new book that introduces our vision of establishing a network of local Community Empowerment Resource Centers to help people, organizations and communities realize more of their potential, discover how to apply “successful living skills” including The Power of Positive Thinking of course!) and produce expanded capacity to address the increasing global economic, social and environmental challenges we face together. See

By applying the entrepreneurial “can do” spirit presented in this little story we can all help create a shared vision of a better world. We can co-create loving, nurturing communities where individuals and organizations realize more of their inherent potential by applying the universal laws of successful living. We can envision and actualize our highest possible individual and collective potential by living, growing and serving together in harmony with love, hope, trust, and respect for everyone regardless of race, creed, age, gender, or religious preferences.

Together we really CAN DO! it. Like Dr. Peale always said,

All it takes is a Positive Mental Attitude”, Imagine That!

Through the positive influence of Dr. Peale and Les Brown, we created Kankakee County CAN DO! ( that went on to produce a series of similar community empowerment programs that led to the establishment of several cause-oriented, God-inspired companies and non-profit organizations and projects such as Expanding the Circle of Success, Ultimate Destiny University and the Ultimate Destiny Hall of Fame Award Program ( ).

Now we are about to help non-profit organizations bless their members and receive revenue as we launch our Ultimate Destiny Success System. It consists of 14 stand alone programs totaling over 1,200 pages covering 12 facets of fulfilling ones destiny. (
These include: Realizing Your Ultimate Potential; Fulfilling Your Life Purpose; Enjoying Loving Supportive Relationships; Achieving Ultimate Success in Business and Career; Attaining Financial Freedom and Prosperity; Enjoying Ultimate Health and Fitness; Attaining Spiritual Enlightenment; Harnessing Your Creative Mind Power; Raising Your Consciousness Level; Making A Difference and Leaving A Legacy; Enjoying Peace and Balance in Life; and Fostering Personal and Planetary Sustainability.

Charles Betterton and the Ultimate Destiny Success System Library of 14 E-books Being Offered for Free to Guideposts subscribers and participants of the Peale Center who subscribe to the free Ultimate Destiny Newsletter!

Charles Betterton and the Ultimate Destiny Success System Library of 14 E-books Being Offered for Free to Guideposts subscribers and participants of the Peale Center who subscribe to the free Ultimate Destiny Newsletter!

In recognition of the lifetimes of dedicated service that Dr. Peale and Ruth Stafford Peale devoted to helping others fulfill more of their ultimate destiny, and in appreciation of the significant influence The Power of Positive Thinking had on the evolution of Ultimate Destiny University, anyone who participates in the Peale Center for Christian Living (including every subscriber to Guideposts) is being offered a free copy of the electronic Ultimate Destiny Success System if they subscribe to our free Ultimate Destiny University newsletter”. Charles Betterton

To obtain a copy, visit or contact Charles Betterton at or call him at 760-212-9931.

Charles Betterton is the founder and CEO of CENTER SPACE, Inc. and Ultimate Destiny University, two nonprofit membership organizations that foster spiritual, personal, organizational and community empowerment. Charles has almost 40 years of administrative experience in national and local government and nonprofit organizations involved in spiritual, personal, organizational, community and economic development. He holds a Master’s degree in Community Economic Development.

Charles is co-founder of the non-profit Ultimate Destiny University for Successful Living. He is also co-author of the 14 part, 1,200+ page Co-creating Your Ultimate Destiny Success System.

UPDATE AS OF 11-11-11. In September 2011, Charles and his team incorporated Universal StewardHeirShip, Inc., (US, Inc.) a new cause-oriented company based somewhat on the benefit Corporation model. The company encompasses the 4Ps of Purpose, People, Planet and Profitability and it includes Spirit, Service, Stewardship and Sustainability as the foundational principles along with Community Economic Development.

US, Inc. is allocating 40% of the cofounder’s shares to affiliated non-profit organizations. For more information, please see the Invitation for Collaboration or write to Universal Stewardheirship, PO Box 20072, Sedona, AZ 86341 or send an email to

Do you have a story to share about how Dr. Peale, one of his books or programs helped you in some important way? If so, please use the Contact Form below to share your story with us so we may share it with the world. Thank You!”