PAWLING, N.Y.— A sign outside the town hall proclaims Pawling the ''Pride of the Harlem Valley and Home of Positive Thinking.'' It went up in 1984, soon after the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club gave a testimonial dinner in the Y.M.C.A. lodge for the positive thinker in residence, the Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
Tonight there will be a somewhat fancier testimonial for the folksy preacher whose international best seller, ''The Power of Positive Thinking,'' became a model for self-help books. The scene will be the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan and among the organizers are old friends like the former Governor of Kentucky, John Y. Brown, Armand Hammer and Donald J. Trump, whom Dr. Peale calls ''one of America's top positive thinkers and positive doers.''
Governor Cuomo and 1,000 others have accepted invitations to the event - a 90th birthday celebration for Dr. Peale as well as a benefit for the newly built $3.5 million Center for Positive Thinking. The center, which is to be dedicated tomorrow, will offer motivational seminars for business executives.
''It's that new building out there,'' said Dr. Peale, seated at his desk, gesturing to a window overlooking the grounds of his Foundation for Christian Living. ''We want to raise all the dollars necessary to pay everyone off pronto. So I'm just the gimmick at this party. A gimmick in a tuxedo.'' Battle With Shyness
Dr. Peale went on to complain that ''nobody can make a good speech in a tuxedo.'' From the other side of the desk, Ruth Stafford Peale, his wife of 57 years, told him not to worry. His speech was to last five minutes, ''no more.''
''Five minutes?'' he said, laughing and throwing up his hands. ''I can't get started in five minutes.''
Little about Dr. Peale seems to have changed since 1984 when he stepped down after 52 years as senior pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. His manner is jaunty, upbeat. His voice is strong. And as he nears his 90th birthday, next Tuesday, he continues to battle a lifelong shyness, replacing negative thoughts and attitudes with positive ones, and with faith.
''Oh, I live in misery,'' he said. ''But I overcome it by affirmations, by 'imaging,' by positive thinking. I suppose the day I'm lying in my casket the minister could say, 'Here's a shy boy.' ''
Although he is known as a big-city minister, the Peale family has long been a part of Pawling, 65 miles north of Manhattan. It has population of 6,200 and a bustling post office, from which the Foundation for Christian Living mails more than 30 million pieces of inspirational literature a year: pamplets, books and copies of PLUS: the Magazine of Positive Thinking. Another Peale publication, Guideposts magazine, has offices nearby in Carmel and 4.6 million subscribers. Dropping Water Bags
The Peales divide their time between an apartment on upper Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and a 200-acre farm on Quaker Hill in Pawling. They settled here in 1943, after two of their three children were found dropping paper bags filled with water from the window of their apartment, which belongs to Marble Collegiate Church. Mrs. Peale decided they needed a country place. It was there that Dr. Peale wrote ''The Power of Positive Thinking,'' which first appeared in 1952 and is still in print in several editions.
Over the years, the concept of positive thinking has been variously dismissed by religious and secular critics as simplistic and selfish, as using religion to gain fame or wealth. Today its techniques like ''imaging'' and ''visualization'' are commonly practiced in the self-help movement. ''It's come full circle, hasn't it,'' Mrs. Peale said. ''It's entered every culture, every area of life, salesmanship, medicine, athletics.''
Dr. Peale has been pictured by critics as an apostle of affluence, who drops to his knees in corporate boardrooms and prays for profits. ''It's false to say that positive thinkers are interested only in the bottom line,'' he insisted. ''Some may be, but the ones I talk to are thoughtful, honest, sincere people - not only leaders of industry but salemen and clerks in their 20's and 30's.'' On the Lecture Circuit
When the subject of retirement came up, the Peales chuckled. On the lecture circuit last year, they traveled 98,000 miles. Dr. Peale addressed 150 groups in the United States and in the Far East.
Producing an appointment book, Mrs. Peale ticked off her husband's speaking engagements over the past few weeks. There was, for example, a rally of Global Achievers in New Orleans, a round table of Rotarians in Florida and 1,000 pizza parlor operators in Las Vegas, Nev.
At the pizza convention, Dr. Peale spoke on ''Why Positive Thinkers Get Positive Results,'' one of four topics in his repertoire. ''I can get up and give any one of them right here and now,'' he said.
Source : http://www.nytimes.com/1988/05/26/nyregion/dr-peale-nearing-90-still-thinks-positively.html880