Declaring that “values matter,” the 60 Minutes reporter and former CBS Evening News anchor examines a number of values, virtues, and vices he sees in America—and around the world.
In his debut, Pelley combines memoir, exposition, and exhortation to chronicle his long and honored career. His strong opinions, however, are not partisan: He assails our current president but also the Clintons and others, regardless of party, who have failed to adhere to the virtues he identifies, such as gallantry, devotion, gratitude, and vision. The text is organized thematically. The author begins with the efforts of the FDNY during 9/11 and ends with what reads like a “go-forth-and-do-good-work” graduation speech to new graduates at a journalism school. He includes tributes to (and denunciations of) well-known figures—e.g., George W. Bush, whom Pelley treats kindly and appreciatively for his 9/11 leadership and then takes to task for the Iraq War—and figures whom he escorts from the wings into the limelight. Among these are a military nurse in Iraq, the parents of Sandy Hook students, and Bao Tong, a member of the Chinese government who spoke against Tiananmen Square—and has paid a lifelong price. Occasionally, Pelley inserts between chapters a minisection entitled “Field Note,” mostly anecdotal, personal comments about his experiences or observations during his reporting days. One recurrent theme is the importance of free speech and the free press. He worries about the current climate, rife with the proliferation of fake news on social media. Pelley is consistently generous in his praise of his colleagues; producers, camera operators and many others earn high marks in the author’s gradebook. Of Bob Simon, for example, he writes, “I learned more from [him] than any other colleague.”
Piercing tributes to values and those who embody them mixed with crisp, detailed accounts of reporting in highly hazardous locations.