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Parker J. Palmer

Parker J Palmer 2017




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Parker J. Palmer, Founder and Senior Partner Emeritus of the Center for Courage & Renewal, is a world-renowned writer, speaker and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. He has reached millions worldwide through his nine books, including Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, A Hidden Wholeness, and Healing the Heart of Democracy.

Parker holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as eleven honorary doctorates, two Distinguished Achievement Awards from the National Educational Press Association, and an Award of Excellence from the Associated Church Press. In 2010, Palmer was given the William Rainey Harper Award whose previous recipients include Margaret Mead, Elie Wiesel, and Paolo Freire. In 2011, he was named an Utne Reader Visionary, one of “25 people who are changing your world.”

He is the author of nine books, including several best-selling and award-winning titles: Healing the Heart of Democracy, The Heart of Higher Education (with Arthur Zajonc), The Courage to Teach, A Hidden Wholeness, Let Your Life Speak, The Active Life, To Know As We Are Known, The Company of Strangers, and The Promise of Paradox.

ParkerJPalmer-hiresHis latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, was chosen by Spirituality & Practice as one of the best books of 2011 on contemplation and social activism.

In 1998, the Leadership Project, a national survey of 10,000 educators, named Dr. Palmer one of the thirty “most influential senior leaders” in higher education and one of the ten key “agenda-setters” of the past decade.

Since 2002, the Accrediting Commission for Graduate Medical Education has given annual Parker J. Palmer “Courage to Teach” and “Courage to Lead” Awards to directors of exemplary medical residency programs.

In 2005, Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer, was published (Jossey-Bass) by Sam M. Intrator (Editor).

A member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), Dr. Palmer and his wife, Sharon Palmer, live in Madison, Wisconsin.


Enjoy this On Being podcast in which Parker Palmer, Courtney Martin, and Krista Tippett come together for a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change — taped in a live conversation at PopTech: Rebellion in October 2014. And below is the full video of that PopTech conversation:


A Note from Parker: Some Thoughts About Legacy

I’m at an age where people have begun to ask me what I want my legacy to be. I always say, “It’s not my legacy—it’s ours.” It’s a shared legacy created by the folks who design and offer Courage & Renewal programs and the folks who participate in them.

As a writer, I’ve always wanted to “put wheels” on my ideas so people can make use of them. For the past twenty years, I’ve partnered with the Center for Courage & Renewal to do exactly that. Together we’ve created vehicles for people to ride those ideas toward life-giving destinations—inner as well as outer destinations. Our programs have allowed many people in many walks of life to develop visions and take actions that make our world a better place.

I’ve always believed that the Center’s success should be measured by its ability to attract competent, committed, caring people who are doing work that serves the human possibility. That’s exactly the kind of people we’ve attracted. So by my lights, we’ve succeeded!

And what about my writing? In my office, there are two bookcases with three shelves each. They are packed to the max with books I’ve written in various editions and translations; books for which I’ve written forewords or chapters; and periodicals for which I’ve written articles. That’s a lot of words! But for me, those words—sitting there inert on the page and shelf—are not the legacy.

A legacy is a living thing. What’s important to me is the way people have taken my words into their own lives in their own way—and then carried all of that into communities, institutions and the larger society. Without the deep, long-term partnership I’ve had with the Center for Courage & Renewal, none of that would have happened on the scale it has. I’m forever grateful for this gift of colleagues, friends and fellow travelers.

My personal legacy? I’d like it to be one of good humor, good will and generosity. I’d like it to be said that we had a lot of laughs, we extended a lot of kindness, and we built an abundant storehouse of heart-and-soul resources that anyone can draw on. I can’t imagine a better legacy than that.




Parker J. Palmer

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