The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels
By Jon Meacham
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham helps us understand the present moment in American politics and life by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame division and fear. Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called the "better angels of our nature" have repeatedly won the day. Painting surprising portraits of Lincoln and other presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and illuminating the courage of such influential citizen activists as Martin Luther King, Jr., early suffragettes Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt, civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and John Lewis, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Army-McCarthy hearings lawyer Joseph N. Welch, Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history. He writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause; the backlash against immigrants in the First World War and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; the fight for women's rights; the demagoguery of Huey Long and Father Coughlin and the isolationist work of America First in the years before World War II; the anti-Communist witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy; and Lyndon Johnson's crusade against Jim Crow. Each of these dramatic hours in our national life have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear--a struggle that continues even now. While the American story has not always--or even often--been heroic, we have been sustained by a belief in progress even in the gloomiest of times. In this inspiring book, Meacham reassures us, "The good news is that we have come through such darkness before"--as, time and again, Lincoln's better angels have found a way to prevail. Advance praise for The Soul of America "This is a brilliant, fascinating, timely, and above all profoundly important book. Jon Meacham explores the extremism and racism that have infected our politics, and he draws enlightening lessons from the knowledge that we've faced such trials before."--Walter Isaacson "Jon Meacham has done it again, this time with a historically rich and gracefully written account of America's long struggle with division in our immigrant nation and the heroic efforts to heal the wounds. It should be in every home and on every student's desk."--Tom Brokaw
"This is a brilliant, fascinating, timely, and above all profoundly important book. Jon Meacham explores the extremism and racism that have infected our politics, and he draws enlightening lessons from the knowledge that we've faced such trials before. We have come through times of fear. We have triumphed over our dark impulses. With compelling narratives of past eras of strife and disenchantment, Meacham offers wisdom for our own time and helps us appreciate the American soul: the heart, the core, and the essence of what it means to have faith in our nation."--Walter Isaacson "Jon Meacham has done it again, this time with a historically rich and gracefully written account of America's long struggle with division in our immigrant nation and the heroic efforts to heal the wounds. It should be in every home and on every student's desk."--Tom Brokaw "Rather than curse the darkness, Jon Meacham, with his usual eloquence and surpassing knowledge of our history, has offered us all the sublime and calming reassurance that as threatening as so much of the present moment seems, Americans have weathered such storms before and come out on the other side with fresh and progressive horizons. This is a beautifully expressed and convincing prayer to summon our own 'better angels' to meet the obvious challenges of today."--Ken Burns "In this beautifully written, passionate, and timely work, Jon Meacham provides a much-needed reminder that, from its very beginnings, the United States has struggled to deliver on the promise of the Declaration of Independence and to make our Union 'more perfect.' Race has often been at the heart of those struggles, and The Soul of America persuasively argues that the resilient spirit of those who fought throughout our history to overcome that seemingly intractable problem is still with us. It is that spirit that gives us cause to be hopeful in the face of doubts about our country's future."--Annette Gordon-Reed
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