IN OUR OWN WORDS by Robert G. Torricelli


Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century
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The last hundred years” worth of our most historical, powerful—and progressive—verbal addresses. The co-editors have very different qualifications. Senator Torricelli (D-N.J.) gives newsworthy speeches to congressional committees and the media, while Carroll has edited a similar centennial anthology, Letters of a Nation (1997, not reviewed). Arranged by decade, the collection features such early speakers as Teddy Roosevelt riding rough on Muck-Rakers, a Tammany Hall defense of “Honest Graft,” W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington previewing Malcolm X (“revolution is hostile”), and the inimitable Mark Twain advising girls to smoke, drink, and marry “in moderation—[for instance,] only one cigar at a time.” Humor is rare here, but the collection offers the drama of hearing both sides of the debates over Prohibition, the League of Nations, evolution in the schools, isolationism, McCarthyism, segregation, the success of the U.S.S.R., the Vietnam war (three to one against), the women’s movement, rock lyric warnings, the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill brouhaha, and gun control. Despite the apparent symmetry, there’s a plurality of voices for progressive, liberal, and even anarchist causes. Two Native Americans and several blacks denounce white racism; anarchist Emma Goldman derides patriotism; Helen Keller, Paul Robeson, and Jane Fonda laud Communism; a Berkeley student champions free speech; Cesar Chavez and others have a grape to pick with Labor; and we hear supporters of social spending, prison reform, abortion, AIDS victims, drug addicts, and sundry politically correct minorities. The eulogies for FDR and the Kennedys are apolitical, but Democrats are over-represented and Republicans (from Goldwater to Nixon and Agnew) demonized. Ending the book with the eloquence of Edward R. Murrow (who’s here), Tom Brokaw remarks on the century that “it is not enough to wire the world if you short-circuit the soul.” For a progressive Democrat, the sound bites of the century.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-56836-291-9
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Kodansha
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999


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