Well-reasoned and capably constructed.



Schlesinger (Political Journalism/Boston Univ.) confidently assesses the diverse contributions made by speechwriters toiling thanklessly on behalf of presidents from FDR to G.W. Bush.

With the advent of radio, Warren Harding became the first president to have a full-time speechwriter, although even George Washington asked someone else (James Madison) to help draft his farewell address. Schlesinger attributes the modern style of presidential communication to FDR, whose memorable slogans were variously coined by the speechwriting trio of Samuel Rosenman, Raymond Moley and Louis Howe, with Roosevelt weaving together their ideas. The author looks at each presidential style in turn. Truman, who delivered speeches awkwardly, used lawyers, economists and public-administration men such as Clark Clifford and George Elsey as his writers. Eisenhower, a stickler for good grammar, liked the “straightforward, meat-and-potatoes style” crafted by Bryce Harlow. Eisenhower’s team hired the first black speechwriter, Frederic Morrow, and coined the term “military-industrial complex” for his farewell speech. Ted Sorensen used short words with simplicity and clarity in his speeches for JFK, though his boss took the credit and often ad-libbed. (The author’s father, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., plays a strong supporting role in this chapter as a Kennedy aide and speechwriter.) Bill Moyers and Richard Goodwin merged the roles of writer and policymaker during their time with LBJ, forging a preferred style somewhere between eloquent and forceful. Nixon was an exacting writer and editor, never satisfied with the drafts he was given by Ray Price or William Safire. Ford allowed his top advisers to squabble over his speeches. Carter disastrously tried to write all his own, while Peggy Noonan famously helped establish Reagan as “the Great Communicator.” The first Bush eliminated personal detail from his speeches because he tended to choke up; Clinton was a master at ad-libbing. The “troika” of Michael Gerson, John McConnell and Matthew Scully gave Bush II “an axis of evil” to fulminate against. Schlesinger lingers over particular speeches good and bad, thereby offering a revealing look at the making of history.

Well-reasoned and capably constructed.

Pub Date: April 15, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9169-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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


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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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