Sam M. Intrator, an assistant professor of education and child study at Smith College and editor of Stories of the Courage to Teach: Honoring the Teacher's Heart, has assembled essays by 32 authors from many different professions (including physician, poet, business consultant, community organizer, philanthropic foundation officer, university professors, teachers, clergy) who present their thoughts on the life and work of Parker J. Palmer. In 1998, the Leadership Project, a national survey of 10,000 administrators and faculty, named him one of the 30 "most influential senior leaders" in higher education and one of the 10 key "agenda setters" of the decade, noting that "he had inspired a generation of teachers and reformers with evocative visions of community, knowing and spiritual wholeness." Many of the authors of these essays know Palmer from when he was an undergraduate, during his 11 years of service to a Quaker retreat center, from his work with public school teachers over the past 10 years, or from his lectures, workshops, and writings.
For the past 20 years, Palmer, a Methodist turned Quaker, has explored education, community, spirituality, and social change. We have loved his books, including The Courage to Teach, The Active Life, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness. As Intrator points out, standout themes in his writing include: "the shape of an integral life; the meaning of community, teaching, and learning for transformation; and nonviolent social change." The essays here have been organized into three sections: "This Live Encounter," where the emphasis is upon the quest for the true self and the nature of the inner life; "Moving the Heart to the Center," which takes up the challenges of creating communities of learning where inner exploration is significant; and "True Self Unleashed," which examines the social and institutional changes that are possible when individuals make a choice to live out of the core place of identity, integrity, and wholeness.
Four of our favorite writers have contributed excellent essays to this volume: Mark Nepo, Margaret J. Wheatley, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and Dawna Markova. Parker J. Palmer has illuminated the art of soul-making, the spiritual nature of living an authentic life, and the importance of community and service to others. This rounded work sheds light on all of his contributions.