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American Mojo: Lost and Found: Restoring our Middle Class Before the World Blows By Hardcover – June 9, 2015
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"Thoughtful and thought-provoking, American Mojo: Lost and Found is ultimately an optimistic resource of practical and proactive macroeconomic strategies for the twenty-first century, highly recommended." ―Midwest Book Review
“Peter Kiernan is a man with a big vision―for the middle class. In this robust and imaginative analysis of how the middle class must be secured he cuts through the fog and presents a clear vision for a new course. Bravo.” ―Tom Brokaw
"American Mojo is a page-turner of a gripping story, one that reads like fiction but in fact weaves the drama of the breakdown of our healthy middle class. And then hope brims from the pages as Peter Kiernan guides us toward a truly possible future where the jewel of our nation, our middle class, could actually shine again for real. If you care about America, there is no more important book out there today." ―Diane Nyad, champion ocean swimmer, author, and frequent public speaker for social betterment
"Kiernan chronicles, in highly entertaining fashion, the American middle class's rise over the course of the 20th century, as well as its currently imperiled state. Observing that "80% of the world's purchasing power, 92% of the world's economic growth, and 95% of the world's consumers" are now outside the U.S., Kiernan asks whether Americans are in danger of being left behind. Each chapter begins with the story of a person who participated, and in some cases played a key part, in the progress of the American middle class, from the potato magnate who made McDonald's possible, to Betty Friedan and her contribution to unleashing the economic potential of American women. The stories touch on many topics, including the post-WWII housing boom, the economic impacts of racism, the culture war's origins in the late 1960s, and Reaganomics . . . this is a riveting read that sets out not to draw definite solutions from past successes and failures, but to educate the general readership with storytelling." ―Publishers Weekly
"Peter Kiernan has written the book that needed to be written―and read―right now. His documentation of how America’s middle class rose and is now teetering is the wake-up call this country needs to hear. His incisive storytelling, trenchant observations and clear-eyed solutions make this a must read." ―Geoffrey Canada, president, Harlem Children’s Zone
About the Author
Peter D. Kiernan, award-winning bestselling author, is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and advisor to businesses, nonprofits and government. After a multi-decade Wall Street career, he left in 2000 to pursue venture capital start-ups, nonprofit work and writing. A 25-year Robin Hood Foundation board member and past Chair of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, he has served on the boards of numerous hospitals, colleges, graduate schools, disability and poverty fighting organizations, and charter school initiatives and currently serves on the Al Smith Foundation. A frequent contributor on TV talk shows, radio programs and public speaking forums, Kiernan’s last book, Becoming China’s Bitch won the International Book Award and was a New York Times bestseller. He holds an MBA from Darden and a BA from Williams College and lives in New England with his family.
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It takes an author unencumbered by political ambition, but with a wealth of hands-on corporate, world and philanthropic experience, to give us this essential reading, now. It takes an unfettered private citizen, not enmeshed in academia or governmental/think tank agendas and revolving doors, to home in on what's worked and what hasn't; to personalize and synthesize; to refuse to offer up tired bromides but instead to think inside and out of the box.
One need not agree with every observation and idea and the author wouldn't want you to. But his intelligence and perception are striking, the book is a "page-turner" and his optimism, while not unbridled, is inspiring.
(Full disclosure: Pete and I majored together in American Civilization with the same remarkable professors, materials and discussions.)
The prose is vibrant and compelling. Two or three-sentence paragraphs of observations/ideas flow from contextual material. The invitation is to the reader to think, agree, disagree, diverge, modify, alter but above all to think about, our broken, but vitally needed, middle class.
Each chapter begins with a vignette about an individual in our history who played a formative role, because part of Kiernan's thesis is that our history abounds with individuals who were willing to make profound economic and societal changes for the greater good; to get back on track (to re-attain our "mojo"), we must drive anew that spirit of individual empowerment and responsibility.
Part One traces the post WW II growth of a large and prosperous middle class, while pointing out looming stress fractures, or how the nation could wind up being a victim of its own successes. Kiernan also traces the seismic changes in national politics that led to Reagan's ascendancy and polar shifts in policy. The author supports his points with a winning combination of empirical, anecdotal, learned evidence--and heaps of common sense. He resists: "On the one hand, on the other...perhaps...could argue in hindsight...it may be seen...so-and-so might have been thinking..." Instead, the voice is crystal-clear, as a clarion call to understanding and action must be.
Part Two is "Found"--middle class mojo growth buds and sprouts here and there despite the devastating set-backs of the Great Recession. A good example is the work and vision of Geoff Canada with Harlem Children's Zones--an effort Kiernan knew well from his philanthropic work at the Robin Hood Foundation. This and other examples illustrate nicely Kiernan's belief in the power of each of us, particularly the privileged, to help individually and ally with business and government to re-energize our middle class.
Two spectacular, beat-all chapters are 10 ("The One Per Cent Solution...A time for wealth to lead the charge"), and 18 ("Back to Work...The new abnormal of job creation"). They are chock-full of practical, viable and creative ideas, designed to attract consensus thinking and action.
He recognizes well the explosion of prosperity and new middle classes across the developed world--with each country's own groups left behind-- and acknowledges that our unique circumstances post WW II are those of a by-gone era. He acknowledges painfully that not everyone will find a satisfying place in a re-invigorated middle class.
All those moons ago, we learned that a special blend-- of courage, willingness to pull oars together, free expression, ingenuity and allegiance of individuals in a position to give and make sacrifice-- birthed and nurtured this country's great growth. Now, many journeys later, Kiernan again finds that "[h]appily, everywhere in the world you go, there is an abiding confidence that we possess something special that drives us to higher ambition and accomplishment." It is difficult to deny that, or to conceive of a more readable, impartial and stirring modern call to action.
Not much there for those looking for a way to maintain their middle-class standing or looking to restore their mojo.
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