In a stirring essay on America's past and future, octogenarian novelist Michener (The World is My Home, 1992, etc.) outlines his native land's strong and weak points, and his hopes and fears for America's future. Drawing on his travels, historical research, and experiences in politics, Michener cites numerous criteria for determining the country's strength: social and monetary stability, a political system that allows for an orderly transfer of power, an adequate health care system and effective schools and free libraries, adequate employment opportunities for the young, the existence of a tax system that balances wealth between rich and poor, the prevalence of churches that provide moral guidance, the existence of recreational and cultural opportunity, and equitable treatment of disparate ethnic groups. While acknowledging America's defects in some of these areas, the author characterizes the US as a country basically noble (that is, generous and courageous) in purpose and qualities, but he argues that several trends threaten to diminish America's nobility as a society. Although his analysis of the characteristics of a noble society may be controversial in some particulars, Michener will encounter little disagreement in his diagnosis of the US's principal problems: rising violence (he blames it on America becoming too much of a "macho" society), deteriorating families, a declining educational system, the shift from a producing to a consuming economy, declining health care, and ominously worsening racial relations. In his analysis of the results of the congressional elections of 1994, Michener rejects facile nostrums of the left and right in arguing that while some Republican ideas should be supported (like tort reform), many others should be opposed as undermining the nation. Among these are proposals to ban deficit spending, return a great deal of federal power to the states, and eliminate affirmative action programs. Not all will agree with the specifics of Michener's arguments; still, the author makes an admirable effort to define what has made our country great and how to preserve what is best about it.