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Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989 Paperback – February 5, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743257448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743257442
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Don't be afraid!" was George Washington's near-to-last utterance, to the worried doctor at his bedside. The essential founding father's counsel is understood by well-known historian Beschloss (The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany) to set an example for future presidents. Beschloss outlines how several occupants of the Oval Office—including Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Kennedy and Reagan—combined courage with wisdom to change the future of the country, notwithstanding the slings and arrows they earned. Despite its unpopularity at the time, for instance, Reagan's "strong beliefs combined with his optimism" led him to pursue the policy to abolish nuclear weapons, which helped bring down the Soviet empire peacefully. None of the author's heroes were saints, but rather flawed men sustained by friends, families, conviction and religious faith. With contenders for 2008 already lining up, this well-timed book might, the author hopes, persuade some to take the kinds of "wise political risks that Presidents once did."Perhaps. But knowledgeable readers should look elsewhere for genuine historical insight. The author's broad brushstrokes necessarily restrict him to painting nuanced individuals and complex times in only basic primary colors, and there is little that has not been said before—in some cases, many times. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Over the past two decades, Michael Beschloss has become one of our most popular and prolific historians, recognizable from his many television appearances and bankable in the mold of David McCullough, Stephen Ambrose, Douglas Brinkley, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Previous books include Taking Charge (1997), an examination of LBJ's White House tapes, and The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany (2002). Critics are not as kind to Presidential Courage as to the author's previous efforts, commenting frequently on a rushed, uneven, and unnecessarily episodic prose style (what Mary Beth Norton deems "the written equivalent of sound bites"). Beschloss's thesis-that presidents are sometimes required to make unpopular decisions-forces on these profiles a sameness that, despite the author's research, reputation, and obvious passion for the subject, undermines the book's effectiveness.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book presents a unique perspective of US Presidents actions during the difficult times of this country.
Manohar Ravela
He places a great deal of emphasis on courage, yet makes it clear that courage is different from stubbornness or going it alone.
J. Johnson
I would have quit reading this less than twenty pages in had it not been a selection for my book discussion group.
Gloria Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Sunnybird on June 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I almost didn't buy this book based on the Publisher's Weekly review above, which essentially says that the book just repeats what has been said previously many times (sidenote: the author appeared locally, so I bought the book primarily to have it signed). While that may be true, after reading an online excerpt, I decided that while others may have written the same, I might not have read what others have said.

I found the book to be interesting, entertaining, and accessible (not bogged down in excessive complexities) and a quick read. The book is more focused on reporting historical incidents/anecdotes than on any in-depth analysis of specific events, but given that the book covers presidents from 1789 to 1989 in 330 pages, this should not be a surprise. If you are looking for in-depth analysis, look elsewhere. If you would like a nice overview of presidents and selected historical events, then I would recommend this book. The criticism of another that the book is "pop history" may be true, but that may not be a bad thing if it gets more people to read a history book.

As I currently live in Philadelphia, I found the section on Andrew Jackson and his fight with the Second Bank of Philadelphia particularly interesting. The Second Bank building still stands and is an attractive piece of the city's historical architecture. It's nice to know a little more of the history that goes along with the building, and I will look at the building differently as I pass it on the street.
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125 of 136 people found the following review helpful By J. Johnson VINE VOICE on May 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Michael Bescholss has become one of our most visible historians, in part through his willingness to appear on both public tv and venues like the late lamented Imus in the Morning. None of these appearances would matter if he didn't have anything of value to say. Of course the reason he is invited to appear is that he not only has something to say, but it is insightful and beautifully written.

In this book he deals with several crisis periods in presidential history. He tells the story clearly and then incisively draws meaning for the larger American Story. Whether it is Washington's struggle over the Jay Treaty, Adams balancing the place of England and France in American life or FDR supporting England when public opinionwas decidedly isolationist, Beschloss helps us understand our own story. He places a great deal of emphasis on courage, yet makes it clear that courage is different from stubbornness or going it alone. Courage involves wisdom, a moral compass and can only be differentiated for stubborness with the gift of time-perhaps a wise thing for people on both sides of our current political landscape to remember

I strongly recommend this book. It is an excellent addition to the study of the presidiency and an excellent discussion of leadership for both the public and private sector.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Gil Taylor on June 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Presidential Courage is a magnificent book that I highly recommend to everyone except many other historians, or those who fashion themselves as such. I've been a student of history for most of my 71 years and I consider Michael Beschloss a wonderful writer who reaches people like myself - people who enjoy history, but have never done the excruciating research necessary to qualify as a historian.

Many academicians abhor that which addresses their field of expertise, but is written at the level of ordinary folks like me. Michael Beschloss is a great historian who is able to extrapolate the key components of his research and present them in a manner easily comprehensible to people like myself. I believe that books like Presidential Courage are not only fun to read, but constitute an important public service.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By History-reader on May 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a story that I could not stop reading. Mr. Bechloss tells the story of how what he calls "Presidential Courage" changed the United States of America. By this he means 9 presidents who made difficult decisions that we American citizens needed to have, but they were decisions that could have wrecked the lives of those presidents with defeat or even assassination (Lincoln is an example of the latter). Bechloss tells the galluping tale of George Washington (who stopped a war by England with an unpopular treaty), John Adams (who stopped a war with France), Andy Jackson (who stopped the Bank of the United States), Abraham Lincoln (who freed the slaves although he thought it might make him lose to his opponent in 1864, Genl. MacClellan), Teddy Roosevelt (who stoppped J. Pierpont Morgan and Wall Street businessmen), Franklin D. Roosevelt (who was trying to tell American citizens to defend against Hitler although they were worried that he would push them into World War II), Harry Truman and starting Israel (his Secretary of State wanted to quit--Bechloss could also have written about bringing civil rights to the U.S. Army), John F. Kennedy and civil rights (altho the Southern states were against it and he was worried about his election in 1964)and then Ronald Reagan and ending the Cold War (which I liked even though I am a Democrat because Democrats helped him to do this more than many Republicans did). The book is a little bit like that old TV show "You Are There" because it makes you feel as if youy're right there with all these presidents as they're doing these dramatic and important acts. It will give you the idea of what it is like to really be President. There are also great color pictures too.
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