'Happyness' author speaks at Jesse Hall

Thursday, September 13, 2007 | 11:01 p.m. CDT; updated 8:15 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

COLUMBIA — Christopher Gardner, the man whose life story was made famous by the film “The Pursuit of Happyness,” told a crowd at Jesse Hall on Thursday about the impact raising a child has had on his life.

“Movie — great. Book — great. Business — great. But the most important thing I’ve ever done is break the cycle by being a good father for my children,” he said.

Gardner came to MU as a guest speaker in the Delta Gamma Lectureship in Value and Ethics. The program began in 1999 when Delta Gamma brought another Everyman turned movie sensation, Homer Hickam from “October Sky,” to Columbia.

Gardner’s presentation was the ninth in the series.

Earlier in the afternoon, Gardner spent time at the MU Bookstore signing copies of his autobiographical book, “The Pursuit of Happyness.” It was adapted into a feature film with the same name starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith.

The majority of Gardner’s presentation dealt with the turmoil and heartache he faced getting off the streets and onto Wall Street. Many of the stories Gardner described coincided with events in the movie.

Gardner told the crowd that anyone could accomplish their goals with enough determination. The main problem he faced in his uphill battle to success was not racism, but “place-ism,” he said. Gardner did not attend college, was not well connected and did not have money, he said.

After the success of the movie, Gardner said he is using his newfound celebrity to spread the word about the plight of working homeless families and their “invisibility” in American society.

As he closed his presentation, Gardner made one promise: “There will be a sequel.”

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