Early life and adolescent
Andrija was born on February 19 1918, in Chicago as the son of poor Yugoslav immigrants. His father had entered the United States as a stowaway in 1912.
Karel Puharic, as Andrija’s name is written on his birth certificate, was, as he told me, a quiet child who suffered severely at the hands of his bullying and whip-lashing father.
He attended various public schools in Chicago and graduated from the Cooper Grammar School in 1932. He then went to Crane Technical High School for one year. When his parents got divorced, “Karel” spent the years 1933 to 1935 with his mother on a farm in Garter, Illinois. He worked in orchards, trimming fruit trees, and drove a mule team when roads were being built. Other times, he was a farm hand for a neighbor. It was the happiest time of his youth. as he later told his children, “learning to commute with nature.” The Parish Priest persuaded him to go back to Farragut High School, from which he graduated in 1938.
In cleaning out the apartment which Andy had made ready for his father in New York, I found Andrija’s journals and scrapbooks. Also newspaper articles about “Henry Puharich”. At home he was always called Andrija, but when he first went to school his parents thought it better to give him a more English-sounding name. In their broken English, the name Henry (which they pronounced as Hendry) sounded like a good translation of Andrija, so they enrolled him as such.
At Farragut High School, he pursued what was known as the “General Science Curriculum”. His activities included solo and choral vocal work, playing in the concert band, and varsity football. At the age of eighteen, he became the sports-editor for the Courier-Chronicle, a Chicago newspaper. To do his stories for the sport page, he had to attend every game of every sport, in addition to his regular schoolwork, and a part-time job, outside – working in a theater from 3 to 11 o’clock every afternoon and evening.
In 1937, he won the second prize in the Cook County Oratorical contest. It was sponsored by the Union League Club of Chicago to commemorate the birthday of George Washington. The award was $100 towards tuition in a college of his choice.
WASHINGTON THE LEADER
When a man belongs to posterity, he is an alien to his contemporaries since the effects of his work are too far reaching to be appreciated by his own generation. There is none of that familiar local color about him or his productions that appeals to the masses. There is too much of the visionary about such a man to convince the practical minded.
Speculations of this order enter the mind of an individual when contemplating the fame and leadership of George Washington. In reading the literature of the time one is astonished at two things. First, at the bitterness of the criticism directed towards Washington, especially during his second administration. Bitterness which resulted from the application of his ideals. For the natural antagonism between the known, the ordinary and the exceptional, the inventive is always bitten Then secondly, that despite such criticism from the many, a strong current of loyalty from the few furnished an inspiration and became a source of strength to him.
This latter attitude did not assume the proportions of the purely personal affections accorded such leaders as Jefferson, Jackson, or Lincoln; but it did show itself in the respect and reverence with which these people regarded him. Even in those days some of the people vaguely felt his transcendent greatness. And since that time posterity has proven the soundness of the faith of our forefathers, as each succeeding generation has reaffirmed their judgment.
When we look at Washington’s career, when we consider his foresight, his wisdom and his statesmanship, we are not surprised at the reaction of a troubled people. They needed a man of courage, a man who possessed keen insight; a man endowed with a genius for order and justice.
And this man was George Washington. From the moment he took command of the revolutionary armies beneath the Cambridge Elm. the recognition of his ability as a leader was apparent. Misfortune, delay, nor disappointment could avail to completely unseat the public trust in him. They saw something in the man that assured them of a character destined for higher things.
Washington was forty-three years old when he took command of the Continental Army. His ability and personality had so far impressed his fellow delegates in Congress that they gave him supreme command of the forces. This act in itself was a gesture of approval from a discerning people.
As a general, Washington’s methods of procedure were painstaking The laborious plans, the extreme care with which he surrounded his military operations seemed to many critics an exhibition of inefficiency, a lack of the knowledge of strategy. But Washington was not inefficient. On the contrary. He knew the material with which he had to deal and he took no chances. As a rule, he avoided conflict when his forces could not compete with an army of greater size, superior training, and better equipment. His methods of warfare were in perfect accord with the type of army he had, an army, at first incapable of even the simplest parade maneuvers, and later an army ragged, worn, and disillusioned by years of privation. The final outcome of the revolution, however, revealed to an awe-inspired nation that the deviation from the standard military tactics was another indication of the foresight, leadership, and adaptability of a great man. In the judgment of political thinkers, no event in the course of modem history has been more far reaching in its consequences than the American Revolution. Take the organization of the government of the United States for example. In all this movement the people responded to the leadership of Washington. His recognition of the need of reorganization brought about the drafting of the Constitution. Here in all its complicated form, its division into compartments, its recognition of state and federal authority, its emphasis on the present state of affairs yet with its eye to future growth and expansion, a set of principles was crystalised; all of which have stood the test of time.
Later, during his two terms as president, Washington laid down another set of principles outlining the American foreign policies, principles which have become our guide posts in protecting us against the folly and madness of contending militaristic nations.
Washington suffered much criticism for not assisting France in their hour of need. France had helped us; now was our chance to return the favor. But Washington saw how ineffectual would be the aid of a newborn country struggling for its very existence, and so he set forth his neutrality policy. This was a wise move for it protected an unstable government from foreign entanglements and gave it an opportunity to acquire strength within itself.
Today we feel sure that Washington is still the leader. His spirit hovers over our beloved country, shielding us from outside malicious influences and imbuing us with lofty ideals and steadfastness of purpose. The increasing heartfelt appreciation of a nation in honoring the memory of Washington stands as the greatest monument ever accorded mortal man. And so, this afternoon, it is the duty and the privilege of all of us to dedicate ourselves anew to those principles and ideals that are forever associated with the name of the greatest of all Americans, George Washington.
Reading the speech I heard Andrija’s warm and melodious voice. I always loved to hear him talk, to watch his audience hang on his lips. When giving a lecture, he looked calm and collected, but I knew better. During one of his talks on E.S.P., he had jingled coins in his trouserpocket for more than an hour! “You made me nervous,” he said afterwards. “I couldn’t understand what you were trying to tell me. I was afraid my fly was unzipped, but I didn’t dare look.” From then on I always checked his pockets.
I can also imagine how he must have slaved over his Washington speech, writing, and re-writing it at least twenty times, and addressing his audience in front of a mirror.
The speech, however, also gives me pause to reflect. Especially the opening words, for I have heard Andrija say the same about himself. Did he, at the young age of nineteen, foresee that the effects of his work would be too far reaching to be appreciated by his own generation? There certainly never was any of that “familiar local color” about him. Not even in high school.
In 1937 the Courier Chronicle wrote: “He excels in scholarship, receiving all E’s and S’s each marking period. He played quarterback on the football team last winter, and he loves to play basketball. Only the rule that no one can play in two major sports in one season keeps him off the team.
In music, he is one of the best singers in the Glee club; often called upon to do solo work. Taking all of Henry’s activities you see that he hasn’t neglected any side of life; the intellectual, physical and musical.”
Not only was young Henry a bright kid, he was also very handsome, with somewhat Slavic features, deep-set sky-blue eyes and a shock of jet-black hair. In addition, he was popular, as the poster I found in his scrapbook proves. Underneath a drawing of him it says:
IT’S A CRIME IF YOU DON’T VOTE FOR PUHARICH THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE!
During his senior year at Faragut High School he was President of the Student Council. Was he popular with the girls too? I don’t doubt it. He certainly was a romanticist.
With nostalgia, I remember the love-filled nights of long ago when he read the poems of his high school days to me. One in particular rings a bell:
“Life is so short and there is so much to learn,
That methinks I’ll forfeit the pleasures I yearn;
I’ll study life hard with philosophic view,
And share my moments with a companion true;
I’ll try not to lose touch with life and men,
But, apart from my work, stay with their ken
My work I would have encompass all men,
To serve them each as brother and friend;
The world would my workshop and playground be,
To create and build for all lands by every sea;
Glory and wealth would I gladly forfeit,
For one who understands, to share life with
I believe that here Andrija shows his true, sweet sensitive nature. In September, during his lucid moments, he spoke again of having so much to do for mankind, to warn people against themselves, against greed, desire, and jealousy. “My God, Bep, it’s such a sad world we live in,” he lamented. “All these wars, brother killing brother in Yugoslavia. No cure for AIDS yet. Floods, earthquakes, famine. Why don’t people listen? We have to teach people to love and respect each other before they destroy the world.” Probably thinking that I had come back to him, he said: “We still may have a great future together, baby.”
Why was it so hard to share life with him?
In 1938 he won a $100 first prize in an Essay Contest sponsored by the Chicago Women’s Club.
IF LINCOLN COULD SPEAK TODAY
In our modem civilization, no institution of any type can consider itself free from change. All things are subject to revision, to adjustment, even to destruction in order to comply with the demands of the march of time. Civilization is moving onward towards its goal of attaining greater heights. It is necessary for every man to be a part of this forward movement. To attain the greatest distance the motion must be directed, the spirit co-operative. To accomplish this gigantic task we need a leader, a man whose influence would reach out and attract the most skeptical.
Glancing down the pages of history in search of such a leader, the eye is arrested by the name of Abraham Lincoln. What would he do in solving the many questions that confront a changing order? By what means would he guide the course of society into more desirable channels? It is interesting to speculate upon these questions, and from a study of them we might acquire some worthwhile suggestions.
Voice lacking today.
Today, one of the obstacles in the way of achieving greater social justice and a better standard of living is not the lack of social and economic knowledge to bring about the reform, but the need of a voice to carry the message to the intellect and emotions of every person.
Undoubtedly, the nation would be inspired if Abraham Lincoln’s voice could carry to the masses that call for a more humane order. In speech, manner and personality, Lincoln was the home-made product of a frontier country. As such he was to every worker and farmer – a plain man, a friend, a neighbor. He was the voice of the times. He was the philosophy that men could take to heart and understand.
Behind the Lincoln that the common man knew, burned the fire of a genius. He had the ability to see many sides of a question. He could analyze the current trends of society and could predict its future rather accurately. His plans, formulated according to ideals of tolerance and justice, made a universal appeal. For Lincoln’s genius was of such a fiber that not only the intellectuals marveled and appreciated, but the masses understood and approved as well.
Foresight and firmness.
Could Lincoln speak today, he would attack the problems of the present with foresight and firmness. Mr. Lincoln’s biographers record his intimate knowledge of the philosophy of changing civilizations, technical engineering, and the economic structures of his times – all invaluable aids to a leader.
He would set about solving the problems of today not by partisan methods, but by disinterested analysis.
At the present time war is hovering on the threshold of America. Lincoln never encouraged war, yet he refused to stand by and allow the framework of the Union to be destroyed because a part of it was in a state of decay. If a few timbers in a vessel are rotten, the master does not think of scraping the vessel. Rather, he sets about making it seaworthy once more. And so, when Lincoln was confronted by the civil war, he decided to discard outworn institutions and save the basic structure.
Peace he wanted, but not peace at any price.
Today, along the social front a controversy is raging. This controversy is similar in form to the one predominant in Lincoln’s day. At that time he said: “nation was dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” By this statement he meant that every man is born with equal opportunity; equal access to the resources of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In a Chicago speech Lincoln said: “In relation to the principle that all men are created equal, let it be as nearly reached as we can. If we cannot give freedom to every creature, let us do nothing that will impose slavery upon any other creature.”
Want amid plenty.
The great paradox of our highly mechanized America is that want still exists in the midst of plenty. It is a recognized enough land, machinery, and facilities to provide an abundance of food, clothing and shelter for every one if our plans were properly directed. Yet we have one-third of the nation poorly fed, ill clad, and inadequately housed. Most of the complexities of our social and economic scene can be traced from the illogical forces by which our society is driven. That Lincoln would seek to solve this problem can be ascertained from one of his speeches before a Cincinnati audience. At that time he said: “Let us hope, rather., that by the best cultivation of the physical world beneath and around us, and the moral and intellectual world within us, we shall secure an individual, social and political prosperity whose course shall be onward and upward.”
Were Lincoln able to speak today he would advocate the need for a more efficiently organized society. To him the best government attainable was “a government of the people. by the people, and for the people.”
He would set about solving our great social controversy by applying two of his rules of life: “Deliberate slowly, execute promptly.” In his day, when the time came for him to test his convictions, he put these rules into effect with such indomitable courage that the results were heard around the world.
Today our technical knowledge is superb. Our ability to produce is unlimited. Our knowledge like our raw materials is sufficient to promote a better society. What we urgently need is the spirit and the voice of a man like Abraham Lincoln for dispensing our heaven-blessed abundance and redirecting the emotional and intellectual outlook of our lives, our society and our world.
Due to his “scholastic achievement and general attainment,” Andrija is in July of 1938 awarded an undergraduate scholarship in the College of Liberal Arts of Northwestern University that he maintained for four years. In August he receives a ‘Certificate of Honourably Mention’ for his “wholesome and honest opinion about America,” in the American Youth Forum competition. And in September the governor of Illinois, Henry Homer, congratulates him by letter on winning a prize (ten dollars) for his essay on the Constitution of the United States, in a state-wide contest conducted by the Illinois Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission. The Governor concluded his letter by saying: “You may be interested in knowing that it was in an essay contest when I was a boy in school, that I received my first impressive understanding of responsibility to my government.”
The reader of this narrative may wonder, as I do, why, with his understanding of the social controversy in America, Andrija didn’t aspire to be a political leader?
Because it wasn’t his destiny?
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