‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ returns to Milwaukee

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Chris Gardner, chief executive officer of Chicago-based brokerage firm Gardner, Rich & Co., announced at the Milwaukee Athletic Club’s roundtable event Wednesday that his company plans to open an office in Milwaukee.

Gardner, a Milwaukee native and author of “The Pursuit of Happyness,” kicked off the 2009-2010 MAC’s business networking program on Wednesday. It was the first event where Gardner has addressed a Milwaukee audience.

Gardener’s journey from a homeless single father to a self-made millionaire is documented in his memoir "The Pursuit of Happyness," and in 2006, his story was made into an award-winning movie starring Will Smith.

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“I was reluctant to come back here,” Gardner said “My mother moved to heaven about 15 years ago now, and when you have to come back to your hometown and you can’t visit your mama’s house, it isn’t the same thing. I have had to deal with that.”

According to Gardner, he was reluctant at first to even write the memoir.

“It really wasn’t my idea,” Gardner said. “In fact, I declined the process the first time. I knew it was going to be difficult, and for so long I had kept all of those memories in different boxes in my head – and all of them were marked, ‘Do not disturb.’"

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According to Gardner, the blockbuster movie only focused on one year of his life when he was 28 years old. The book focused on the entire time leading up to that point and after it, as well.

Gardner also discussed growing up in Milwaukee and the keys to overcoming obstacles and breaking cycles, particularly the cycle of men who are not there for their children.

“My son and I went on the Oprah Winfrey show, and she asked him what it is that he remembers about that time in his life. What he said made my soul smile,” Gardner said. “He said, ‘All I remember is that every time I looked, up my father was there.’ To hear him confirm in his own words that I had broken the cycle of men who are not there for their children was the most important thing he has ever said in his whole life, even though we were homeless.”

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His latest book, "Start Where You Are," aims at giving back by motivating others to claim ownership of their dreams and achieve their full potential.

For more information on future MAC roundtable events visit the MAC website.

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