Judge’s Words of Wisdom to Teens and Tweens Goes Viral


Well-Known Member
Apr 22, 2007
Reaction score
Parents of teens and tweens, we've got a story for you and your kids. Some sage advice from a judge is going viral and soon could be making its way to a Facebook post near you. In 1959, Judge Philip B. Gilliam of Denver, Colorado, published a letter in the Pierce County Tribune in North Dakota.

Fast-forward just over half a century when in 2010 the Tribune's editor posted the letter on the paper's website. From there, principal John Tapene all the way in New Zealand posted the letter in his school's newsletter. Finally, some of Judge Gilliam's wise words found their way to Canadian radio station 96.7, which posted the letter to its Facebook wall with the title "Every teenager should have this framed and hung on their wall in their room."

The popular Facebook post has been shared more than 11,000 times and counting. Here's a snippet of what the letter says: "Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities. The world does not owe you a living. ... Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady."

At the rate that this post is being shared on social media, it proves that good advice never goes out of style.

Judge Gilliam's letter to the Pierce County Tribune:

Open Letter to Teen-ager

Open Letter to Teen-ager

Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teen-ager. What can we do?...Were can we go?

The answer is GO HOME!

Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job.

Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons. And then when you are through - and not too tired - read a book.

Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities.

The world does not owe you a living...You owe the world something.
You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.

Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady.

You're supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years.

They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure.

But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request.

In Heaven's name, grow up and go home!

that's why I ain't getting video games for my kids. there won't be any "gimme gimme gimme" either.
That's a sound advice.

It reminds me of a commencement speech that a high school English teacher made. It was called "You're not special." and that speech went viral. That speech was very straightforward with plenty of sound advices. Loved it.
I'm for handing the experience to them. Great speeches may point them in the right direction, but with mainstream influence and the kind of people they surround themselves with, that message could easily become corrupt. It looks like kids now learn better from mistakes than being told how they should approach life.
This is something I agree on.

Everything kids do is not a right, but a priviledge.

They need to understand that the things they get is because their parents love them and that they need to show something back in return. There is nothing more parents want from kids except when kids do things to improve themselves.

Parents are more proud to see their kid get good grades in school and mow the lawn than to get a new DVD from their kids. :)
Correction of injustice - correct authorship

Such a good blog. Thanks for your energy and commitment.

I trust that you will share with me a willingness to correct a firestorm of injustice. My mother was the author of "Letter to a Teenager" incorrectly attributed to Judge Philip Gilliam, a good man, who has acknowledge he wasn't the author and never pretended to be. It is so unfair to my mother, who has since passed. My sisters and I would be deeply grateful if she would receive the recognition she deserved.

I have substantial documentation.

I have copies of two letters, one from The Reader's Digest of September 15, 1958 and the second from Abigail Van Buren dated January 16, 1978 acknowledging her authorship. I would post copies if I knew how.

Abby says in the letter "Dear Doris: You, dear, modest, generous lady. I am returning all the documentation per your request. As I recall, a judge in Denver, Judge Gilliam (or something like that) took credit for the letter you wrote. And several other had the nerve to claim authorship."

The Reader's Digest letter says, in part: "We were delighted to have your letter and to learn that you are the author of 'letter to a Teen-Ager,' which we reprinted in our August [1958] issue. Our payment check for $80.00 is enclosed... You may be interested to know that since your letter appeared in the Digest it has received even wider circulation, for we are now receiving reprints from all over the country."

In her correction piece, Inez Robb, whose syndicated column appeared in 140 papers, wrote: "Since about 50 per cent of my correspondents attributed the letter to Philip B Gilliam, the widely-know judge of Denver's Juvenile Court. I telephoned to ask him when he had first written it.
" 'But I am not the author, I didn't originate it,' Judge Gilliam said. "I don't know who wrote it. As best I can remember, I received an anonymous letter from an irate parent seven or eight years ago. He or she laid down the platform that has since become known as 'Letter To A Teen-ager.' "
" 'A few months after I received it I was speaking at Boys' Ranch in Amarillo, Texas,' Judge Gilliam continued. 'I used the advice in the talk and the Boys' Ranch publication reprinted it, and credited it to me."
Well, if Judge Gilliam is not the author of "Letter To A Teen-ager," who is?
Stop the press! The mailman has just delivered a delightful letter from Mrs. Doris Burvill (sic.) of Hibbing, Minn., who says she wrote the famous letter "several years ago after a near student riot in Hibbing, following a basketball game."
"It was first published in the Hibbing Daily Tribune" the author says "And was picked up by The Readers Digest."
Mrs. Burville: Front and center, and take a bow!"

Here are several links to Abby's columns where she corrects the false attribution to the Judge. Her column is syndicated and you will find that article in many newspapers carrying Dear Abby.

From the Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1995-10-29/news/9510290386_1_dear-abby-open-letter-sick

The Bryan Times, July 2, 1985. (jump to page three, upper right) http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=NtGNdKbuCngC&dat=19850702&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Inez Robb, Lewiston Evening Journal, March 26, 1963 (jump to page three) http://news.google.com/newspapers?n...7QgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=vmkFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2309,2430303

Thanks for your consideration.
Last edited: