America The Last Best Hope, Volume I, ©2006 by William J. Bennett, Nelson Current, Nashville, TN.
As we look back into the history of this great country of America, it is easy to come to the understanding that the great architects of our nation are simultaneously larger than life and so enshrouded in the myths of yesteryear as to be unapproachably foreign in space and time. Yet the myths were really flesh and blood people, full of the same traits of nobility and pettiness that all mere mortals possess. It remains a tall order for any historical work to bring home these realities to a modern reader. Yet, Mr. Bennett has fairly remarkably done so in this book.
Although Mr. Bennett was a member of the Reagan White House, and, thus, is decidedly viewed as a partisan, I believe he has steered his course fairly well by the markers of fact, not often yielding to favoritism of one political point of view over another. He, for the most part, leaves it up to other books and other observers to question the rectitude of the philosophies of the great men who wielded the rudder of state. There are some exceptions, of course, where his stand on a particular matter may bow some to the weight of political correctness.
Mr. Bennett and I would both rightly agree, for instance, that the issues of the rights of minorities were not addressed in a just and timely fashion. However, I would not be so ready as he to condemn all actions that seem to be against these rights. There were many underlying issues in the case of human rights that defy an easy explanation or solution. Undoubtedly, Bennett’s aim in this book is to accentuate the positive aspects of American history. While not denying the negative, he decidedly doesn’t have time or scope to deal with them in a more complete way. I would have preferred that he had been a little more objective in his fact-telling in that case and left the social commentary of these issues to another book, in which justice could more rightly be done to the subject.
American history is replete with giants of politics and industry, who, along with tremendous skill, also possessed tremendous ego. Bennett has managed to give a concise, yet thorough account of the interaction of so many of them, that I can hardly believe I read it all in just one book. I was completely drawn into the story without much need to prod myself. It was less like reading a history that it was like reading a novel. Yet, anyone who wants to get a firm grasp on America from inception to WWI is going to be much the better for reading this book. I, personally, will be keeping this book nearby as a guide book for my future forays into the laws and workings of this great experiment known as America.
The title of this book seems to invoke the idea that the cause of America will be theorized and defended with all the philosophical diatribe at the author’s disposal. For this reason, I have hesitated to take up reading this book for several years. Finding on the clearance rack of a used book store finally gave me the impetus to read it. I have discovered that, far from being a political diatribe, it’s value is as a reference history at least the equal of the best college textbook on the subject. I doubt I will find it on a discount rack, but I am eager to find volume II. If it is anywhere close to this book in value, it will be money well spent. Five stars.