Time Block

I'm offering a new service on a growing basis. I call it the "Leadership Now Walkshop." I take 3-5 people on a walk--an actual walk--to a specific set of places tied to a historical person or event and a defined aspect of leadership. We walk, I tell real stories about the person and event in that historical moment, and my participants listen, look, smell, see, and more. After the walk, we end up … [Read more...]

The 8-Year Old Girl

· This true story comes from the memoirs of Edward Porter Alexander. He was a Confederate officer from Georgia, the author of what’s considered to be one of the best war memoirs of the Civil War. You’ll see his book pop up consistently in footnotes or endnotes of nonfiction books on the Civil War. Before I forget, the year was 1863, not 1864. October. Sorry for the slip. · Take a breath and … [Read more...]

Your Schiff

A little more than a month ago I designed a leadership development module around the experience of Lillian Wald. She is generally regarded as the founder of public health nursing and visiting nurses. She began an organization, Henry Street House in New York City, in 1892. It continues down to 2012. Wald was an incredible leader. One of the outstanding parts of Wald’s leadership history is her … [Read more...]

A New Favorite Of Mine: Priscilla

I’ve now presented to a private client my module on Priscilla. The venue was my one-on-one coaching service entitled Creative Conversations. My client asked if anyone had written a book about Priscilla. That’s a sign that the module went well. The answer to the client’s question is: no. No book has been written on Priscilla. As I said to the client, we don’t know a lot of hard data about … [Read more...]

Withstand The Shorthand

We’re all looking for ways to save time. Let me suggest one way not to do it. Be very, very careful about thinking in shorthand. Shorthand thinking is abbreviation of thought. You hear a word or see an image and from that split-second of time you allow your mind to fill in the rest, the things not seen or heard. Here’s an example. You see a person pull into the drive-thru lane of a fast-food … [Read more...]

The Lincoln Way

Next week I am scheduled to be one of the featured speakers at an event. In trying to practice what I preach, I’m using history. In this case, I’m following the example of Abraham Lincoln. Whenever Lincoln had a speech to give, he developed it in a unique way. He would mull the speech in his mind before he wrote anything. He found ideas, phrases, words, and images that best fit the occasion. … [Read more...]

A Balance Of Delicate And Important Proportions

I read today that Gabrielle Giffords and her husband have endorsed the plea agreement reached with the gunman who shot her and several other people in Arizona in early 2011. The exact statement was this: “Avoiding a trial will allow us—and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community—to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives.” All right, it’s understandable. Absolutely. And … [Read more...]

Founding And Tradition: Much Different

I presented to a leadership team (equivalent to a vice-president and a tight group of key directors) and two unique things happened. One was the structure of my work for them. It was the department or division’s annual retreat for its highest level of leaders. The client and I agreed that it would be a valuable for the group to use the history of their own organization—a history that began in … [Read more...]

Bill Clinton-The Last Moment?

President Bill Clinton delivers the keynote speech at tonight's Democratic National Convention. I'd like to share a thought with you, but I want to be sure you read it in the spirit with which it's intended. Here goes. It doesn't take a prophet to suggest this prediction. It might be that tonight is the last time that Bill Clinton delivers a formal piece of communication directly from a national … [Read more...]

Big, Big Deal

Two weeks ago marked the end of my first Leadership Now Walkshop. It was extraordinary for me, I can say for certain, and for my two attendees, I can say with confidence. Let me refresh your memory. The Walkshop was about how a large event collides with your plans for life and leadership. The topic was Benjamin Harrison and two key points in his life separated by fifteen months—when he heard … [Read more...]

A Big, Big Blessing

You’re probably like me in that you know, you have a sense, when something you’ve said has really hit home with the person to whom you said it. I saw it recently during Part 3 of my Leadership Now Walkshop. Here’s what I mean. At several points during the one-hour walk and the two-hour coffee debrief, I offered a comment based on Benjamin Harrison’s experience of July 9, 1862 and its potential … [Read more...]

Continued Relevance: Sorry To Say It

The page-one headline blazed in this morning's Wall Street Journal: signs of global economic slowdown. As I've said many times before, we are in an extended period of economic stagnation. I'm such a firm believer in this view that more than a year ago I designed a Leadership Now Workshop around the idea. It quickly became one of my most-requested sessions. I'll continue to offer it. This is a … [Read more...]

Your Thumbprint And The Plans For Change

Intriguing real situation from my module on the Battle of Tippecanoe, leadership, and change. Tenskwatawa, one of the Indian leaders at Prophet's Town, indeed, the man after whom the community is named, is pushed by three of the most aggressive of his fellow leaders to fight the American forces led by William Henry Harrison. Tenskwatawa hesitated and wavered before agreeing to the use of … [Read more...]

Day Of Surprises

Today's inaugural session of leadership, change, and the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe was full of surprises. Good surprises. I felt as I prepared the material for my client that one thing after another struck me as rather startling. I knew it would get the same reaction from the 100+ participants. I was right. I won't divulge all of the surprises but I will offer out one to give you a flavor. Both … [Read more...]

A Peek At Tippecanoe

Tomorrow is the newest module, my exploration of the world of the Battle of Tippecanoe and its relationship to leadership and change. Two things that must be shared with you right now are: this piece of River is like diving off a cliff into change. My participants in tomorrow's session are going to see aspects of change that they haven't faced as starkly as they will in this module. Among … [Read more...]

Challenge Your Thinking IV – What Really Happened Next

Dr. William Douglass walks into his study, opens his desk drawer, places the periodical inside, and then swiftly closes the drawer and locks it. Done and done, he thought to himself. Douglass's first and main concern wasn't smallpox but rather medical standards and, to be honest, his own reputation as a physician. He wasn't convinced by the journal article about what someone may or may not be … [Read more...]

Challenge Your Thinking II – What Really Happened Next

King kicks off the meeting with a quick summary of things as they stand on that morning. No bail money, a handful of protestors already in jail, not much of a groundswell of local people eager to march, and a federal court order banning any further marches in town. He reminds the 20 that he has told a few folks that he would march and would be willing to go to jail. The group of 20 starts to … [Read more...]

Change, Leadership, And Tippecanoe

Next week I’m delving into change and leadership. I know—boring and old-hat, right? Wrong, at least wrong when you use an historical example and dig into the real-world guts of it. My topic will be the Battle of Tippecanoe of November 7, 1811 and the events surrounding it. I’m taking my attendees through the experience in a very unique manner. This historical River will show us these … [Read more...]

A Person You Should Meet

Today I'm launching a new page on my website. It's entitled A Person You Should Meet. It's located in the You section of the website. Today's inaugural entry is about William DePuy. Get ready for a new person from history that will affect you for the better. Check it out. … [Read more...]

Challenge Your Thinking I – What Really Happened Next

Confident, Lincoln obliged the calls for comments. He stood tall and straight and said with a grin, "I hear you had the Rebels here last summer [meaning four months ago]. Did you fight them any?" The crowd of people stared at him. Silent. Cold. Resentful. After all, where had Lincoln been during those horrible, bloody days? Was it his farm that was plundered? His family member that died or … [Read more...]

What If: The Gettysburg Address Is Never Given

What If: Lincoln Hadn’t Delivered The Gettysburg Address? The ceremony at the dedication of the national military cemetery, the first of its kind in the United States, went off as planned at mid-day, Thursday, November 19, 1863. But for any number of very plausible reasons, Lincoln couldn’t attend. Maybe he declined the initial invitation to “give a few remarks.” Maybe he accepted and had … [Read more...]

A Leadership Walkshop

· The title of this 2-part Leadership Walkshop is “Plans, Shocks, And Your Leadership: Two Walks In the Civil War Experience Of Benjamin Harrison.” · A maximum of 5 people can participate in a walking group. · When registering for the Walkshop, you are registering to participate in both Walkshops. I have decided not to permit people to select one Walkshop and not the other in this particular … [Read more...]

Water On The Rock: Time And You

Think of a big event in your life, something that you believe has left a deep impression on you since it happened. Got it? OK, I’d like you to go with me for the next minute of so. Keep your chosen event in the front of your mind. How much time has passed since the event occurred? Do you see it differently now? Does it have a different meaning, to whatever degree, than it used to have for you? … [Read more...]

Creative Conversations

A Personal Leadership Service from Dr. Dan Miller of Historical Solutions LLC For the last 18 months, I’ve been offering a new and exciting form of leadership growth for my clients. It’s called “Creative Conversations.” At this point, I’ve had six people who’ve fruitfully gone through the experience and emerged with a clearer sense, appreciation, and idea of where they’ve been, where they are, … [Read more...]

Congress

Yeah, I know what day it is. President's Day. Still, I rise in defense of the often indefensible—the U.S. Congress. Well, sort of. Indirectly. And with a whole bunch of other qualifiers. Here we go. For all of the understandably negative press Congress receives, we have forgotten that it was Congress—or the version at the time, the Continental Congress—that was at the foundation of founding … [Read more...]

Lay Down Sally: More You Should Know

MORE ON LAY DOWN SALLY Her name was Sally Cary Fairfax. She was the oldest of four Cary children. Vibrant, effervescent, and vivacious were words often used to describe her. And of course, beautiful and stunning were equally common terms from the guys around her. Both the Cary and Fairfax families embodied every stereotypical image you have of wealthy, plantation-based Tidewater colonial … [Read more...]

Strategy and Compromise by Samuel Eliot Morison

A long time ago people cared about the books and articles written by this man. Now, hardly anyone would know who he was, let alone what he wrote or said or thought. Yes, it was a long, long time ago. At first, this review was all about tribute. I wanted to honor someone whose writings I had first read in my days in graduate school. Samuel Eliot Morison was one of the three or four most … [Read more...]

Your Leadership And The Second Shoe

Want to know how we’re feeling today? I think I’ve discovered it. From all of my wanderings I’ve picked up the palpable belief from people that they expect a second shoe to drop in the economy. They’re waiting for, dreading, and are somewhat planning or preparing for some event that will cause the second shoe to drop and the economy to do another tailspin like September 2008. Let me tell you … [Read more...]

Option B: When The Tears Fall-Leadership, Tragedy, and Ronald Reagan, 1985-1986

LEADERSHIP NOW WORKSHOP: Leading During Tragedy—Ronald Reagan and the Challenger Space Shuttle Dr. Dan Miller The Issue You are in a unique position of having to help people deal with tragedy. No matter how hard we try to avoid it, despite all the planning and prevention, tragedy strikes. And people turn to you to help understand, respond to, and make some sort of sense of tragedy. Tragedy is … [Read more...]

Option A: Down The Rabbit Hole-Leadership, Succession, And The Deeper Story Of Peyton Manning

LEADERSHIP NOW WORKSHOP: Down the Rabbit Hole—Leadership, Succession, and the Deeper Story of Peyton Manning Dr. Dan Miller The Issue Unless tomorrow’s leaders are in place, or you know where they’ll come from, your organization is at extreme risk. Leaders leave. Always, be it by retirement, resignation, removal, or something else. You must, absolutely must, have a clear and solid idea about … [Read more...]

The President, The Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed The World by John O’Sullivan

During ten years three leaders shared the pursuit of one objective. The ten years spanned 1979 through 1989, the three leaders were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II, and the one objective was the downfall of the Soviet Union and its sponsorship of communism world-wide. This is the story ably told by John L. O’Sullivan in The President, The Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three … [Read more...]

Patty and Tom: A Story of Marriage and Leadership

· Jefferson’s political allies nagged and hounded him during August and September 1782 about returning to political debates and issues. He refused, staying holed up in his wife’s bedroom and in the small temporary office near the bed. He had insisted on being present for every childbirth and for every child death. They were a devoted husband and wife. · Get ready for a shocking point—Sally … [Read more...]

Caty and Nathanael: A Story Of Marriage And Leadership

· At the time of their wedding in 1774, Caty was 21 and Nathanael was 32. · The two of them talked about growing old together, enjoying their children and reading to one another by firelight. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? · The fact that Nathanael and Caty still had their four children living by the time of this story was remarkable. Many couples suffered death rates among their children of 50% or … [Read more...]

What If The United States Does Not Unite?

Huge question, huge topic, so huge, in fact, that it’s hard to get a firm grasp on a clear response or line of thought. To better do so, let’s narrow it down a bit. Our focus will be fairly tight, say, in 1787-1789, as the moment when various States of the newly United States failed to come to an accord and unify behind the proposed constitution. The result would have been catastrophic to world … [Read more...]

More Information on Workshop

LEADERSHIP NOW WORKSHOP: Being a Leader During Economic Stagnation: 3 Jewels from the Late 1930s Dr. Dan Miller The Issue Then… The American economy had gone into a free-fall decline by 1930. A modest recovery had been made in the mid-1930s. By the late 1930s, however, a second economic slide befell Americans. The Issue Now… We had a severe economic drop in 2007-2008. Since then, we’ve … [Read more...]

Register for Leadership Now Workshop

REGISTRATION FORM: Being a Leader During Economic Stagnation: 3 Jewels from the Late 1930s DR. DAN MILLER, HISTORICAL SOLUTIONS LLC Date: Friday, October 21, 2011 Time: 10am to 1pm Location: Conference Center, Fort Benjamin Harrison – the Gates Room 5753 Glenn Road Indianapolis, IN 46216 317-591-0904/Note: Computer mapping will not work. The park entrance is off 59th Street and Post … [Read more...]

9-11 and 10 Years On: Your Leadership and History

9-11 and 10 Years On: Reflections on Leadership and History First, let’s do a couple of points from popular culture. Top hit song from 1951: Too Young by Nat King Cole. 2001: Hanging by a Moment by Lighthouse. Top movie from 1951: A Streetcar Named Desire. 2001: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Fad from 1951: Gilbert's Chemistry Sets. 2001: Bratz Dolls. I mentioned having looked at … [Read more...]

My Night At The Indiana State Fair: Leadership And You

Again, don't interpret these comments are sideline criticisms. Officials deserve extensive praise and even more extensive prayers. Well done. To clarify, as a result of this event, unified command was used for the first time in a major incident in Indianapolis, not for the first time in the U.S. In saying I'm a bit of a Calvinist, I'm referring to my spiritual life. I'm saying that I tend to … [Read more...]

The Huge But Avoidable Mistake

THE HUGE BUT AVOIDABLE MISTAKE: RELIVING THE STEEPEST COST OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION The Great Depression struck Americans in the 1930s. It had two parts, from roughly 1930 to 1935, and from 1937 through the end of the decade and into the early 1940s. And during this period—along with all the personal and individual sufferings of joblessness, homelessness, and hopelessness—there was one particular … [Read more...]

I Wish You Didn’t Need To Know This–But You Do

The three key examples are Winston Churchill, A&P Stores, and Grumman Company. Each of them showed outstanding leadership in the late 1930s, a time of deepening economic crisis--after a previous economic crisis. All three examples will help you re-energize your personal leadership and will also give you specific takeaways to use with your followers and, just as importantly, with … [Read more...]

John Adams and the Words That Hit Like a Ton of Bricks

· Do you have to be elderly, in your 80s in Adams’s case, to have this sort of reflection and perspective? Can a younger person reach the same conclusion? Personally, age may help but I don’t think it’s required. This sort of insight can come at any age, at any time. · Speaking of age, I’ve seen plenty of older people who were anything but cheerful in the same sense that Adams displays on March … [Read more...]

American Bloomsbury – Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work by Susan Cheever

They live in separate houses. They have different families. They conduct distinct lives. Yet, they form into a tight-knit group. Over time, their closeness even transcends the gaps of home, family, and daily life. You will see them together and when you see one of them apart, you wonder where the rest of them are. They are a number of people in your organization, or your neighborhood, or your … [Read more...]

The Folding Metal Chair and Eleanor Roosevelt

Walk the talk--that's a cliched way of saying that your decisions should be reflected in your actions. I also think that the way in which you express this link or connection is very important. Eleanor Roosevelt's slamming down of that folding metal chair in the middle aisle echoed in more ways than one. She let everyone know where she stood. She also was doing what she could do; she had no formal … [Read more...]

2011 and 1721

Jack Boylston was the five-year old son of Dr. Zadbiel Boylston. The elder Boylston was a devoted and loving father. I can scarcely imagine what it must have been like to watch his son wince with the process of inoculation and not knowing whether he would live or die as a result of what I, as his parent, was doing to him. Think of looking into the face of your child as you cut the little arm, rub … [Read more...]

You, Egypt, and Revolution

·         We see and hear the word “revolution” tossed around a lot. There’s the technology revolution, the information revolution, the sexual revolution, the Internet revolution, the social media revolution and on and on. You get the point. It’s too bad because that sort of inundation tends to make us numb to the real thing—when an actual revolution is at hand, as in Egypt, we dismiss or look … [Read more...]

46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence by Scott Liell

I applaud loudly for Scott Liell, author of this book. He tries to take a single writing and writer, Common Sense by Thomas Paine, and show us nearly two hundred forty years later its meaning and significance. Liell skates on the thin ice of few sources but regardless: applause all round. I read Liell’s book at the best time of year for such a topic, the summer and its high national holiday, … [Read more...]

Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND THE ONE-ARMED MAN ·         I don’t know the name of the One-Armed Man. I’d love to be able to tell you his whole story. Maybe someday I’ll find the information.       Did you hear the sound of the wind right before I referenced "rumble and roar"? Interesting coincidence of sound, word, and meaning. A brush of spirit, perhaps.       The story … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on Daniel Morgan and Leadership

·         After you receive my newsletter on Morgan and “campfire conversations,” please be sure to check out The Tackle Box for a guide on using Morgan in your current-day leadership. You’ll find The Tackle Box in the Shop portion of the website. ·         Daniel Morgan was actually born in New Jersey, not Virginia, in 1736. You might not realize it but much of New Jersey in the 18th … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on John Wooden and the What-If Question

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON JOHN WOODEN AND THE WHAT-IF QUESTION ·         John Wooden is one of my most popular historical leadership development case studies (I’ve got 60 of them). I think the three most important takeaways from Wooden’s leadership experience. They are: the Lasting Imprint (how to help your followers gain lifelong lessons from their relationship with you); Shoes-and-Socks (how to … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on the Four Humble Items

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON HARRY TRUMAN AND THE FOUR HUMBLE ITEMS       Yes, I know the video was eight minutes, not five. My fault. Still, I hope you enjoyed it.       Have you come up with your four items yet? Mine: a copy of Huck Finn, photo of family and friends (preferably while camping, hiking, fishing, or at the Chicago Art Institute), my baptismal verse scratched in my handwriting, and a … [Read more...]

Further Thoughts on the Big Little Book

·         The 110 maxims on personal conduct conjure two images in my mind. One is the Book of Proverbs in the Bible’s Old Testament. Like the verses in Proverbs, the 110 points are direct, pithy, and eminently practical (at least in the setting for which they’re written). There is a stern aroma of morality and judgment. The 110 points are often quite specific and directive. And along the way you … [Read more...]

A Foundational Belief

You have foundational beliefs. So do I. A foundational belief is dearly and certainly held in your heart, mind, and soul. It shapes your view of the world and everything in it. We know it is part of truth, a thing above and beneath time and place and circumstance. You build your life upon foundational beliefs. And they power your leadership. You arrive at foundational beliefs through your … [Read more...]

Big Chief Elizabeth by Giles Milton

“Run out and buy a copy.” “Couldn’t put it down.” “Wish they’d make it into a movie but in the end a great book never does well on film.” These are just a few of the many superlative remarks I offer to you about Milton’s book. And yes, this is straight-shooting. I’m not being glib or sarcastic. Don’t stop reading this review, however, because I think you’ll want to learn a little more about my … [Read more...]

The Levels of Leaders on the Ground

One night in the early spring I received a call at home. It was not long after supper, my wife Kelly and daughter Haley and me were cleaning up the table, washing dishes, getting ready for the rest of what we knew would be a nice evening at home. The call was unexpected and the voice on the other end was even more so. For me, and hopefully for the person to whom the voice belonged, it was an … [Read more...]

The Self-Perception of Innovation

One of my recent sessions at a hospital produced a discussion of innovation. When I asked about the state of innovation at this hospital, the participants agreed that it was next to impossible to innovate in the organization. They proceeded to list a variety of reasons why that was, ranging from fear of failure to stale attitudes toward change. The strength of their consensus was surprising to … [Read more...]

Delegation into united or divided teams

Not long ago a group of promising leaders at a hospital explored the role of delegation in leadership. In the discussion they encountered the issue of whether they preferred to delegate tasks on a major project into a team that was united in its pursuit of that project or into one that had evident divisions over it. Such a project might be a building expansion, the development of a significant new … [Read more...]

What if Jeremiah Greenman’s leader had behaved differently?

Benedict Arnold was the leader of the Quebec march. He was Greenman’s leader. Surprised? Get ready for more surprises. Before we go to the “what-if”, permit me to provide some background. Benedict Arnold is the most infamous traitor in American history. His name has become a synonym for betrayal and has remained thus for more than 200 years. That’s a legacy. Arnold was 34 years old at the … [Read more...]

Cell Phones, YouTube, and the Constitutional Convention of 1787

What if one of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had used their cell phone to record debate and then posted it on YouTube? Wow, that takes a minute to grasp. In case you aren't aware, you can buy a cell phone that has the capability to record "moving pictures", like a camcorder. You can then post the film on the internet. For many people, especially those under thirty years … [Read more...]

What if…John Wilkes Booth had not assassinated Abraham Lincoln?

What if Booth had not killed Lincoln? Put another way, what if Lincoln had lived through two complete presidential terms? In my view, had Lincoln lived and died of natural causes his reputation would reach us today in lessened form. We would not have the near Christ-like admiration that most people express for Lincoln. Conversely, we would probably still have the current minority (which is … [Read more...]

The Eloquent President by Ronald White, Jr.

All of us want to speak and write persuasively. Some of us do one or the other well. Few are masters of both. Ronald White Jr. has written a book that explores the great speeches and writings of Abraham Lincoln as president. As you gather from the title, The Eloquent President, White concludes that Lincoln is without peer or parallel in his ability to communicate from the White House, be it as … [Read more...]

Empire and Independence by Richard Van Alstyne

Don’t make the mistake of thinking an older, out-of-print book can’t offer interesting information and points of view. For me, a book written in 1965 by Richard Van Alstyne, Empire and Independence, is an example of time well-spent reading a book you can only find in quaint used book shops or on similar Internet sites. Van Alstyne’s book is brief and written for someone with a keen interest in the … [Read more...]

This Man’s Army: A Soldier’s Story From the Front Lines of the War on Terrorism, by Andrew Exum

Published in 2004, this book covers the experiences of a young man from Tennessee as he joins the Army, becomes a lieutenant, trains as a Ranger, and serves in the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. Andrew Exum, the author, is the lieutenant. It’s a brief book, easy to read. Exum offers an honest glimpse into the daily life of a company-grade infantry officer in the Afghan War. He does so … [Read more...]

The Times and Trials of Anne Hutchinson by Michael Winship

You likely don’t know, but my personal approach to historical reading is to keep books going in five centuries—17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st. I just completed my latest installment for the first of those centuries, the 17th. Thus we come to Anne Hutchinson, arguably the most well-known female character of 17th century America. I knew the fundamentals going into the book by Winship, nearly … [Read more...]

Jesse James, The Last Rebel of the Civil War by TJ Stiles

A dense book packed with details, The Last Rebel by TJ Stiles is an exhaustive treatment of the life of Jesse James, the most notorious bandit of the post-Civil War era. The memory of Jesse James is one-part folklore, one-part pop culture, and one-part fact. Stiles’ book alters that mix, wiping out the large fractions of myth that have built up around the prototypical Wild West bank and stage … [Read more...]

Class 11, Inside the CIA’s First Pot 9-11 Spy Class by T.J. Waters

T.J. Waters is, to the best of my understanding, an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. He rushed to join the CIA in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Five years later, in 2006, he published a book about his training and education experiences as an aspiring spy, analyst, and staffer at the Agency. He was a rookie, one of many to comprise Class 11, trying to … [Read more...]

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards by Jay Feldman

The ground shook, the big river changed direction, and it affected people. That is the basis of this book by Jay Feldman, who added the subtitle “Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes.” That’s New Madrid, Missouri where the earthquakes referenced occurred in three major episodes from December 1811 to February 1812. Feldman tells three stories. One is how the fault line … [Read more...]

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

One of my friends, a man for whom I have immense respect because of his wisdom and broad reading interests, purchased a copy of Team of Rivals at my suggestion. Off he went, new book in hand. I was eager to hear his verdict. Let me repeat, word for word, his reaction to Team of Rivals. “Outside of the Bible,” he stated in an email, “the Goodwin book may be the best I’ve ever read.” I don’t … [Read more...]

Walt Whitman’s America by David S. Reynolds

He was a poet, a journalist, a one-time teacher, a bit of a rogue and a rambler. His was the voice of America in the mid-19th century. All this and more was Walt Whitman. David Reynolds, a professor at the City University of New York, has written a compelling biography of Whitman. Reynolds fixes Whitman in the times of his life. Long sections of the book describe the various influences on … [Read more...]

The Pentagon’s New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett

Sometimes you sit in a meeting, a group meeting, and you see the impact of a well-chosen phrase. These days, we are more likely to recall the impact of a well-crafted PowerPoint presentation. All of a sudden, lights click on atop everyone’s head and out of the room they rush, eager to spread the words of wisdom they have just received. There is more to Thomas Barnett’s book, The Pentagon’s New … [Read more...]

Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan

You're likely reading this review in the comfort of your home or office, perhaps a cup of warm coffee nearby. It won't enter your mind that while you're reading, thousands of American soldiers serve their nation in small bands of five or ten or thirty men. They serve not in Iraq or Afghanistan but in even more remote outposts around the world. These "imperial grunts" are the subject of Robert … [Read more...]

The Defining Moment – FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter

Franklin D. Roosevelt charted new ground for the American presidency. One of the directions that he pursued which set a precedent for his successors was the practice of the "100 days." American presidents down to the early twenty-first century, and the people who advise them, are conscious of Roosevelt's precedent. For it was the polio-afflicted president from New York who cast the mold of active, … [Read more...]

Love and Hate in Jamestown by David Price

Who in their right minds would choose to read about colonial America? Aside from a handful of professors and graduate students, probably not many would do so. At varying distances of three-plus centuries, our view of America’s colonial period (roughly 1550-1775) is quaint at best. At its worst, it consists solely of stilted imagery about the European rape of a virtuous New World perpetuated in pop … [Read more...]

The Savage Wars of Peace by Max Boot

The book covers the history of American “small wars,” those uses of military power that haven’t involved a massive buildup of forces or the pitting of large armies against each other in formal battle. The time period spans from the early 1800s to the modern day. Not surprisingly, as a reader you can sense the driving force of September 11 in the development of the book’s arguments. I heartily … [Read more...]