Memoir/history of the political leadership of the 20th century, from the former secretary of the treasury under President Jimmy Carter.
Blumenthal’s (The Invisible Wall: The Mystery of the Germans and the Jews, 1998) childhood in Nazi Germany and his family’s exile in the Shanghai ghetto produced a perceptive man who would watch and report the changes of the 20th century. Shanghai’s thousands of refugees managed to fend for themselves (they “were expected to administer their own affairs”) with doctors, a hospital, music, theater, libraries and a few different newspapers. Young Blumenthal spent his teenage years absorbing the various languages of Shanghai, learning the life of the streets and understanding that nothing would ever come easy. Throughout the book, he chronicles the vast changes that took place in the world and especially in Germany and China. Taking advantage of the state’s free education, he took a degree at Berkeley and moved on to Princeton’s Public Affairs program. His assignments in the Kennedy and Carter administrations, his work as trade representative and his many years as a corporate CEO allowed him to meet with leaders around the world. This is his memoir, so he can include what he likes, but his successes in the corporate world aren’t nearly as interesting as his opinions of world leaders. He views Hitler, Stalin, FDR, Churchill and Deng Xiaoping as the most influential leaders of the 20th century. His dealings with and impressions of world leaders such as Menachem Begin, the shah of Iran and Zhou Enlai are only part of his diverse insight into 20th-century history.
Blumenthal’s astute understanding of history allows him to ably demonstrate the significance of good leadership.