LOS ANGELES, May 24 (UPI) -- Marlo Thomas wants her new best-selling book, filled with inspirational words from scores of famous people, to be an antidote for what she sees as a surfeit of cynicism in the world.
"The Right Words at the Right Time" features essays and recollections by artists, athletes, politicians, business executives, Supreme Court justices, medical professionals and others -- sharing with readers moments in their lives when they were positively motivated by a few well chosen words.
Muhammad Ali, Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite, first lady Laura Bush, former first ladies Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Betty Ford and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner contributed to the collection.
So did Amazon.com honcho Jeff Bezos, historian Stephen Ambrose, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writer Andrea Jung, astronaut Sally Ride, veteran newsman Mike Wallace and rocker Dave Matthews.
The book debuted on The New York Times best-seller list at No. 15, went to No. 7 in its second week and now stands at No. 3 in its third week on the list.
Thomas is ecstatic.
"There are a lot of good books, performances, plays that people don't recognize," she said. "So it's wonderful when people accept something you put your heart and soul in."
Thomas and the contributors to the book are donating their stories and all royalties from the book to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., -- founded by her father, the late entertainer Danny Thomas, in 1962.
The essays in "The Right Words at the Right Time," for the most part, emphasize an optimism that might strike some readers as somewhat unrealistic, but Thomas hopes the positive tone will counterbalance some of the negativity that sometimes seems to predominate America life.
"There seems to be so much cynicism," she said in an interview with UPI. "Maybe I'm naïve, but I find it stunning that people are constantly looking for the bad, even if they have to make it up."
She said she and her husband, talk show host Phil Donahue, have been subjected to tabloid stories about an "imaginary divorce" but she said other celebrities have not gotten off so easy.
"A lot of people are slurred for things that never happened, just to sell a story," she said. "There's a kind of belief that if something bad is said it's automatically true."
Thomas -- best known as the star of the TV comedy "That Girl" -- got the idea for the book when she was recalling words her father said to her at a moment when she was going through some confusion about her course in life. His advice essentially was to "run your own race" and not be put off by distractions.
"My father could have said, 'Don't care what other people think, be independent,'" said Thomas, "but he said just the right words at the right time. I thought, 'I bet a lot of people that I admire had a time in their life when somebody said the right words to them.'"
The famous and powerful people who contributed to the book are uniquely positioned to offer advice on successful living.
"They worked hard to get to the top of their field," said Thomas. "Their work is exemplary and they lead lives that I think are something to look up to. Not that they're not flawed. But there's nobody there that is flaunting the law or doing things that are a bad example."
Donahue -- who hosted a self-titled, nationally syndicated daytime TV talk show from 1970 until his retirement in 1996 -- is scheduled to return to the air this summer in a daily one-hour show on MSNBC. Thomas said her husband can hardly wait.
"He's chomping at the bit to do it," she said. "He hasn't wanted to for years. Everybody called him to come back and he hasn't wanted to. After 9/11 happened, that was it. He really started talking to the television set and wanted to be part of the conversation."