Who was Russell Herman Conwell?

Conwell was a lawyer and clergyman in the Baptist church, who lived from 1843 to 1925. The son of a Massachusetts farmer, Conwell obtained a very high education, attending first the Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy and later Yale University. He is best known for founding Temple University in Philadelphia, and for his inspirational speech Acres of Diamonds.

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The Speech

Acres of Diamonds, as the famous lecture was called, was published in 1890 by the John Y. Huber Company of Philadelphia. Since its publication, Conwell himself delivered it over 6,000 times around the world. The main idea behind this speech was that all people have the ability to attain success. In order to do so, they do not need to look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement, or wealth, because the resources to do so are present in their own communities.

As an introduction to his speech, Conwell tells a anecdote about a farmer in Africa who, after meeting a visitor, became incredibly interested and obsessed with looking for diamonds. In his pure excitement, the farmer sold his property so he could go out to the diamond line, where diamonds had already been discovered in abundance. The success of finding diamonds would result in great wealth for the farmer, or so he supposed, and that appealed to him. So he spent years searching the entire continent for the diamonds, but never had any luck. Eventually, when he was completely broke, he gave up and committed suicide. The new owner of his farm discovered an abundant diamond mine right underneath the property, which later would be known as Kimberly Diamond Mine, the richest in the world. The intention of the story is that the farmer was literally standing on "Acres of Diamonds" until he sold his farm. Conwell then goes to show how everyone is standing in just the right spot to accomplish our greatest goals. He then talks about the importance of developing the opportunities we have at our fingertips, or in our very own communities, instead of trying to seek out accomplishment elsewhere.