An enjoyable and edifying guide to presidential history.

MARKETER IN CHIEF

HOW EACH PRESIDENT SOLD THE AMERICAN IDEA

A reconsideration of American presidential history centers on the categories of modern marketing.

Voiovich is not a historian—in fact, his diverse background includes “product development, persuasion, psychology, marketing strategy, storytelling, value signaling, audience segmentation, negotiation, and sales.” Unsurprisingly, his nonfiction book aims to reassess the history of the United States and, in particular, its parade of presidents in light of their attempts to sell ideas to their constituencies, to persuade them to buy into the latest stage of the always-evolving American experience. The model for this role—“Marketer in Chief”—wasn’t a president at all. Benjamin Franklin “made the French fall in love with the idea of America” and, as a result, should be considered an “advertising and marketing genius.” The author appropriates the categories of a theory devised by Everett Rogers, a communications expert, called the diffusion of innovation, in which people generally fall into different groups depending on their psychological attitudes toward novelty and risk. The range extends from “innovators” and “early adopters” to “laggards,” those who stubbornly resist invention until such intractability is rendered impossible. George Washington counts as an innovator, one charged with pushing the frighteningly new, while Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford are considered laggards. The two men focused on holding on to America’s “past in the face of dramatic change around the world.” Voiovich invents a new category as well—Barack Obama and Donald Trump are labeled “disruptors,” two “leaders who saw the challenges of declining dominance and decided to shake up the system to do something about it.”

The author’s knowledge of modern marketing is impressive, and the book is spangled with astute comparisons to McDonald’s, Walmart, and Kodak. In addition, his interpretations can be refreshingly unconventional—for example, he argues that James Polk “is the most important President you’ve never heard of” and that Abraham Lincoln’s principal rhetorical gift, his “superpower,” was his talent for humor, especially his “power to lampoon ridiculous behavior.” Given the influence of popular opinion on a democratic republic, it simply makes sense to look at executive action from the perspective of modern marketing categories. But there are limitations to this mode of analysis, and some presidents are harder to capture in these terms than others. Voiovich admits that he struggled to explain Ronald Reagan’s presidency using this method. Moreover, the most disappointing accounts the author offers are of the more modern presidents, Obama and Trump—scant insights are provided into the kinds of public sentiment that defined those historic presidencies. To his credit, Voiovich acknowledges the limits of his analytical perspective: “This history—exploring the role of the Presidency as Chief Marketing Officer of the American idea—is another simplification. Because of that, there are plenty of stories I chose not to tell. Like all histories, I needed to curate a small selection of stories to help illuminate an aspect of the Presidency that hadn’t been fully explored.” There are far deeper works of scholarship on the development of presidential rhetoric, ones that delve more rigorously into the speeches given and the strategies devised. But for those looking for a more accessible synopsis, this is an entertaining and instructive book. An enjoyable and edifying guide to presidential history.

Pub Date: June 14, 2021

ISBN: 9781737001317

Page Count: 632

Publisher: Jaywalker Publishing LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A fond remembrance of a glamorous, bygone era.

MY TRAVELS WITH MRS. KENNEDY

A follow-up to the bestselling Mrs. Kennedy and Me.

Teaming up again with his co-author (now wife) on previous books, Hill, a distinguished former Secret Service agent, remembers his days traveling the world as Jacqueline Kennedy’s trusted bodyguard. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Hill received a medal for valor in protecting the president and his wife, Jackie, from Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets. Later, the medal vanished along with photos of the author's travels with Mrs. Kennedy as a Secret Service bodyguard. Hill recounts how his search for an old award he never wanted yielded an even greater treasure: forgotten images of his globe-trotting adventures with the first lady. The photographs—some in color, some in black and white—immediately transported the bewitched author back to the glittering heyday of Camelot. Images of Jackie in Paris brought memories of the president’s first major state excursion to France, in 1961, where the otherwise very private first lady was “the center of all attention.” Numerous other diplomatic trips followed—to England, Greece, India, Pakistan, and across South America. Everything Jackie did, from visiting ruined temples to having lunch with Queen Elizabeth, was headline news. Hill dutifully protected her from gawkers and paparazzi not only on public occasions, but also more private ones such as family retreats to the Amalfi Coast and the Kennedys’ country home in Middleburg, Virginia. In three short years, the never-romantic bond between the two deepened to a place “beyond friendship” in which “we could communicate with each other with a look or a nod….She knew that I would do whatever she asked—whether it was part of my job as a Secret Service agent or not.” Replete with unseen private photos and anecdotes of a singular relationship, the book will appeal mostly to American historians but also anyone interested in the private world inhabited by one of the most beguiling but enigmatic first ladies in American history.

A fond remembrance of a glamorous, bygone era.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982181-11-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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