Christopher Paul Gardner (born February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist who, during the early 1980s, struggled with homelessness while raising his toddler son, Christopher, Jr. Gardner’s book of memoirs, The Pursuit of Happyness, was published in May 2006. As of 2006, he is CEO of his own stockbrokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co, based in Chicago, Illinois, where he resides when he is not living in New York City. Gardner credits his tenacity and success to the “spiritual genetics” handed down to him by his mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, née Gardner, and to the high expectations placed on him by his children, son Chris Jr. (born 1981) and daughter Jacintha (born 1985).
Gardner’s personal struggle of establishing himself as a stockbroker while managing fatherhood and homelessness is portrayed in the 2006 motion picture The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. The movie, starring Will Smith, Thandie Newton, and Smith’s son Jaden Smith, focused on Gardner’s nearly one-year struggle with homelessness. The movie grossed $163 million domestically at the box office and over $300 million worldwide, also one of Will Smith’s consecutive $100 million blockbusters. The movie took some liberties with Gardner’s true life story. Certain details and events that actually took place over the span of several years were compressed into a relatively short time and although eight-year-old Jaden portrayed Chris Jr. as a five year-old, Gardner’s son was just a toddler at the time.
Chris Gardner reportedly thought Smith—an actor best known for his performances in action movies—was miscast to play him. However, he said his daughter Jacintha “set him straight” by saying, “If Smith can play Muhammad Ali, he can play you!” Gardner makes a cameo appearance in the film, walking past Will and Jaden in the final scene. Gardner and Will acknowledge each other; Will then looks back at Gardner walking away as his son proceeds to tell him knock knock jokes. Pursuit of Happyness: Questions
1. Identify some of the challenges that Chris Gardner faced when trying to sell his bone-density scanners.
2. What were some of the challenges that Chris’s wife Linda had to face?
3. List some of the risks that Chris Gardner faced in getting the job at Dean Witter.
4. What would result if Chris had given up on his dream of getting a job at Dean Witter?
5. Summarize some of the difficulties that Chris had to face while training at Dean Witter.
6. Did Christopher (Chris Gardner’s son) face challenges during this time? Identify some of those challenges.
7. List some of the alternatives that Chris and his son could have done to make their life better.
8. Explain how Chris felt at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
9. Select parts of the story that were the funniest, saddest, happiest, and most unbelievable.
10. Select an action of one of the characters that was exactly the same as something you would have done.
Part 3: Essay: Write a half page response to the following writing prompt.
How can you take the lessons learned in watching this film to your life?