Buscaglia was teaching in the Department of Special Education at
the University of Southern California in the late 1960s when one
students committed suicide. She had been one of the sets of
eyeballs" he always looked for in the large auditorium,
responses showed him that at least one student was hearing what he
said, so the news that she killed herself had a great impact on
"What are we doing stuffing facts into people and forgetting
that they are human beings?"
This incident led
him to form a non-credit class titled Love 1A. There were no
grades. (How could you potentially fail someone in this class?
That wouldn't be very loving!) The class led to lectures and a
manuscript loosely based on what was shared in those weekly
classes. The book found a publisher - and an author surprised to
find that the simple title LOVE had never previously been claimed,
allowing him to say "I have the copyright on LOVE!"
Buscaglia said he never taught this class, only facilitated it,
adding that he learned as much as anyone.
Someone from a
Public Broadcasting System affiliate heard one of his talks and
arranged to tape a later presentation, eventually showing it
during a pledge drive. The response was so strong that it was
presented to the national office for consideration. There was
great resistance, because a professor simply standing at a podium
lecturing was considered old-fashioned, something from the old
days of "educational television." Still, the message and
delivery were so compelling that they gave it a try, and Leo
Buscaglia's warm presentations touched viewers' hearts through the
cool medium of television nearly as effectively as they did in
person. He has been called the "granddaddy of motivational
speakers" on television. His simple message delivered in a
dynamic style made him a popular guest on television talk shows,
as well as on the lecture circuit. At one time five of his books
were on The New York Times Best Sellers List
"Life is our greatest possession and love its greatest
A Cheerleader for Life
Leo Buscaglia was a cheerleader for life. "Life is a
banquet," he would
say, quoting from the movie Auntie Mame, "and most
poor fools are
starving to death." He was most closely associated with
the topic of
love and human relationships, emphasizing the value of positive
touch, especially hugs.
This association with hugging became his trademark at lectures,
thousands of people would stand patiently waiting to hug him after
presentation. It was not uncommon for him to give a talk of
hour, then stay afterwards signing books and hugging for at least
that long. This came about when someone spontaneously
offered him a
congratulatory hug following an early speech. A line formed,
and it became an anticipated part of future events. Time
restraints on occasion would dictate that those towards the end of
the line would have to choose between a hug and an autograph.
Nearly all chose the physical connection with this inspiring
speaker. And he almost never left until he met everyone in line.
Should someone be left out because they hadn't pushed to the
front? Those would have been people he would have missed
experiencing, he said, and that would have left him a lesser
Born in Los Angeles, Felice Leonardo Buscaglia (he later inverted
initials) was the youngest of four children of Italian immigrants.
was raised Roman Catholic, and was influenced by Buddhism in his
life. The combination of physically demonstrative love of life
from his Mediterranean parents combined with the inner reflection
learned from travels and studies in Asia served him well.
His childhood is well known to his listeners and readers; it
many fable-like experiences that he shared throughout his work.
from many diverse cultures identified with these stories, being
of elements of their own upbringing. So many letters to him
similar to this: "Dear Leo, I hope I can call you that rather
Buscaglia because I feel as if I know you, as if we are
"Mama stories" continue to be quoted by fans. (When
identify themselves to him as a "fan," he would
invariably reply, "Don't
be a fan. Fans are fickle and will soon drop you for
something else. Be
a friend. You can count on friends.") While other
children were playing
chase games, little Leo was playing school, always casting himself
the teacher, and always with willing pupils.
He served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. The slender
did not see combat, but he certainly saw its aftermath in his
the dental section of the military hospital, helping to
shattered faces. Using the benefits of the G. I. Bill, he
was able to go
to the private University of Southern California after the war.
association with USC is somewhat unique in the academic world. He
received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees there, and
became a faculty member. Upon his retirement, the university
named Buscaglia Professor at Large, an honorary title held by only
other person at that time. His non-credit Love 1A class was
the times when it began in the late 1960s. He prepared a
educational conferences based on these sessions, which he wanted
to call simply "Love".
The reaction to both his dynamic, evangelical delivery and the
was like nothing ever seen in educational circles, and Buscaglia
a popular educational conference presenter. This exposure led to
speaking requests by colleges, and by other professional and
Once these heartfelt talks were seen on national television they
the largest single money generators for PBS through much of the
1980s. While these presentations paved the way for many motivational
on PBS after him, Buscaglia never considered himself one of them.
He was simply a teacher whose classroom had become the world.
Over eleven million copies of his books had been purchased in the
by the time of his death by heart attack in 1998.
editions are available throughout the world. He was very
surprised by the strong sales in Italy. He never imagined
need an American to remind them of the importance of food, family,
sharing and love of life, because he had learned these things from
The study of love brought him to the study of life. "To
live in love is
to live in life, and to live in life is to live in love." But
this should never be done passively. He wrote, "It's not
enough to have lived. We should determine to live for
something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others,
sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing
hope to the lost and love to the lonely." Only you will
be able to discover, realize, develop and actualize your
uniqueness. And when you do, it's your duty to then
"give it away."
adapted from Wikipedia