November 22 marks two important dates in American history as well as The Creative Network Studios. Fifty years ago today, the world mourned the death of President John F. Kennedy. Twenty years ago today, his life was honored as was the mission of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale who dedicated his life to THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING.
On November 22, 1993, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and the Creative Network Studios produced a 2-hour live awards show on TNN (The Nashville Network) called THE AMERICA’S AWARDS. Honorees were voted for via Parade Magazine and chosen for their exemplary selflessness.
In October of 1993, Charles Ison was approached by The Peale Foundation to try and take it to television, a task that no other producer had been successful doing; the Foundation having held an awards luncheon at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in its previous seven years. Just THIRTY days later, at the new Grand Old Opry stage at Opryland, on a set provided by lifelong friend Jim Owens and a crew made up of friends like Bill Turner and son, Billy Jr., wife, Barbara, “Heartbreak Hotel” writer, Mae Axton, Glen Bacon and other fellow believers in the Power of Positive Thinking, the America’s Awards became the network’s highest rated special for the year.
Hosted by Willie Nelson and Phyllis George, starring over thirty celebrities such as Eddy Arnold, Shania Twain, William Lee Golden, Former President Ronald Reagan, Paul Harvey, Larry King, Hoyt Axton, Ray Stevens, Gary Morris, Crystal Gayle, Lorianne Crook and Charley Chase, Lisa Stewart, John Amos, Miss America 1994 Kimberly Aiken, Rusty Wallace, Darrel Waltrip, returning war hostage and hero Mike Durant, and a host of others. This special honoring six unsung American heroes went live with no dress or technical rehearsal.
To understand the caliber of those honored:
- Allan Tibbels, the wheelchair-bound force behind Sandtown Habitat for Humanity in partnership with President Jimmy Carter
- Melodie Jones from San Antonia and President of Reaching the Youth of America.
- Anne Sweeney from Seattle, WA, a modern day Mother Theresa who crusades for American and international orphans
- Abe Brown, founder of Prison Crusade Ministries in Tampa, FL
- Mike McGarvin, founder of Poverello House in Fresno, CA, who began offering peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to the homeless and hungry of the Fresno community while helping them combat their addictions, both mental and physical.
- Stan Curtis – founder of Kentucky Harvest and Blessings in a Backpack
There are so many background stories such as standing on the legendary stage and knowing that in 30 days the seats needed to be filled, the entertainers secured, locate sponsors willing to pull from non-existent budgets. It should be noted the president of Target not only answered the call from Charles on a Saturday morning, but he led the charge by being the first to step up to the plate to provide financial support for the cause. William Lee Golden, who was estranged from the Oak Ridge Boys at the time, performed the opening number and contributes the show to opening the dialogue that began his return to the country gospel group that he helped start.
Willie Nelson chose his songs and when his lyrics sang about a prostitute standing in a doorway more than a few of us silently began to sweat, fearing how Dr. Peale would respond. This legendary progenitor of the theory of positive thinking was able to see his America’s Awards Show air nationally twenty years ago today. Just a month later on December 24, 1993, the best-selling author and 95-year old ordained minister from Ohio passed away and was hopefully greeted by more than one drug addict his faith had touched, as well as that prostitute whom Willie had written and sang about one month earlier on the Grand Old Opry Stage.
Though Target and a few others stepped up to help bring this show to the airways it was still largely funded by The Creative Network Studios. This epic event that should have closed our doors has opened many speaking volumes to the power of positive thinking.