Shirley Temple:  From Good Ship Lollipop! To Diplomacy

By Shlomo Maital       


Shirley Temple Black passed away on Feb. 10.  She was 85.   She became famous when she began a movie career when only 3 years old,  and in 1935, when she was only 7, won a special Academy Award for her movies.  As a child star, she once made 8 movies in a single year.  During the Great Depression her movies brought joy and relief to millions.   Shirley Temple’s signature song was The Good Ship Lollipop, which sold 500,000 sheet music copies. 

    Child movie stars often have troubled adolescence and adult lives.  But Shirley Temple figured it out.  She realized that her ringlets and precocious acting, singing and dancing would evaporate when she grew older.   After an unhappy first marriage, she married Charles Black and became a diplomat, serving the United States in the United Nations and as Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

   When asked what her secret was, she said, with a smile:  Start early. 

   The BBC recounts a great Shirley Temple story. She was once invited to The White House to meet President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor.  When the First Lady was bending over, Shirley (who was a tomboy) pulled a slingshot out of her pocket and fired a stone at the First Lady’s rear end.  Eleanor Roosevelt stood up with a start.  The Secret Service scoured the room… but no one suspected the curly-haired little angel. 

   Shirley Temple’s life shows us that most of us, perhaps all of us, will need to reinvent ourselves and our careers at least once, when our skills and capabilities are made irrelevant by the rapid pace of change.  We can do as Shirley did, and simply move on, adapt, adjust and find something new, or we can wallow in bitterness and regret.   Like Shirley Temple, each of us needs to think well in advance,  what will I do next, when what I do now is no longer relevant?  And it’s best to start now.