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The Value of a Journal

Biff Barnes

Do you keep a journal? If you are a family historian or might someday want to tell your life story in a memoir, you should.

A recent review of The Black Book, edited by Adlai Stevenson III, is a reminder of the value of journals as a tool for those trying to capture their own or their family’s stories.

Stevenson III’s great-grandfather, Adlai Stevenson I (1835-1914) who was a Congressman from Illinois, Postmaster general and Vice President under Grover Cleveland, began the book “to jot down quotes and quips, thoughts and inspirations that kept him ahead of things or that he could borrow for his own speeches.” The Vice President’s grandson, Adlai E. Stevenson II (1900-1965), Governor of Illinois, twice the Democratic candidate for president, and Ambassador to the United Nations, picked up the little volume and added his own insights, and observations. The current Stevenson, Adlai III, (1930-    ), the son of Adlai Stevenson II, an Illinois State Representative and U.S. Senator, continued the family journal and finally published it in 2008.

The result says reviewer Jack L. Kennedy is “…American politics and history as experienced by several generations of an American family...edited and supplemented with commentary by a living Stevenson and former senator-- America as his family knew it for more than 150 years that draws lessons for its future from a rich past. In other words, it is a mix of politics, passion, fact, fiction, prediction and history.”

It can also make you laugh. Great-grandfather Stevenson, a supporter of Abraham Lincoln, quotes the future President’s assessment of an Illinois lawyer, “"He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas better than any man I ever met." Adlai II offered a definition of a hypocrite as, “... the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”

“The Black Book,” says Kennedy, “…displays range, humor, American political and cultural history spanning a century and a half, personal glimpses, reality and the dedication of a family to public service because they enjoyed it and thought they could contribute to American life. That's not a bad ambition to pass along to later generations.”

Also not a bad example of why a journal is valuable in any family.

I have listed links below to some good websites to visit if you are interested in learning more about journaling.

Click here to read the review of The Black Book in the Joplin Independent



Journal for You

Conversations Within – Journal Writing and Interior Dialog


Create Write Now

Writing Forward