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Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 10, 2015
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“[Jon] Meacham’s book should be required reading—if not for every presidential candidate, then for every president-elect.”—The Washington Post
“Destiny and Power reflects the qualities of both subject and biographer: judicious, balanced, deliberative, with a deep appreciation of history and the personalities who shape it. If Meacham is sometimes polite to a fault, Destiny and Power does not suffer for it. His kinder, gentler approach succeeds in making George H. W. Bush a more sympathetic—and more complex—figure than if the former president had written his own doorstopper after all.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Jon Meacham, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Andrew Jackson, put an enormous amount of work into this volume: nine years of interviews, full access to the diaries of George H. W. and Barbara Bush, and an open door to family members and friends. Add to this Meacham’s balanced journalism and smooth writing, and you have a fascinating biography of the forty-first president.”—The Dallas Morning News
“When we rank, reconsider, laud, or denounce past Presidents, living or dead, we are taking stock of our own times. In that sense, the vindication of George H. W. Bush is a reflection of what we know we’ve lost. Jon Meacham’s new biography of Bush, Destiny and Power, makes that plain from its very first pages.”—The New Yorker
“Graceful prose, backed by diligent mining of the archives and access to an oral diary that Bush dictated throughout his presidency . . . The story of the forty-first man to hold the office sheds light not only on the country we were, but the one we’ve become.”—Los Angeles Times
“Meacham is a superb historian and he weaves a compelling historical narrative, drawing heavily on Bush’s own contemporaneous diaries. The result is a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into high-stakes decision making in a rapidly evolving world.”—The Seattle Times
“Through one man’s long journey through politics, we see America’s changing attitudes toward power and duty.”—Time
“Illuminating . . . written from Bush’s perspective but with a journalist’s rigor . . . George and Barbara Bush have provided extraordinary cooperation [for] an account of his life and presidency that has depth and value.”—USA Today (4 out of 4 stars)
“A gripping new biography of the forty-first president.”—The Economist
“Meticulously researched . . . a revealing biography that should serve as the starting point for future evaluations of the forty-first president.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A vivid, well-written account.”—Publishers Weekly
“The more time passes, the more the dust settles, the clearer it becomes that George H. W. Bush and the strengths of character he brought to his long service to this country deserve more attention and appreciation. And now comes Destiny and Power, Jon Meacham’s altogether fair, insightful biography of the forty-first president—a portrait made especially compelling by the author’s remarkable access to Bush’s private White House diaries. This is a timely, first-rate book!”—David McCullough
“What a spectacular and moving portrait this is—not only of a remarkably classy man but of the era that shaped him! It is hard to imagine a biographer more fitted than Jon Meacham to write what will surely be the definitive work on George Herbert Walker Bush.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin
“This astonishing book is both timely and timeless. Based on candid interviews and intimate letters and diaries, it provides a deep insight into the character of George H. W. Bush, flavored with colorful anecdotes depicting his relationships with people ranging from Gorbachev and Reagan to his sons George and Jeb. The result is a fascinating and insightful portrayal of the life of an exemplary American citizen.”—Walter Isaacson
“Jon Meacham’s timely and intimate biography of George Bush 41 is a welcome reminder of this modest president’s call to service, from the cockpits of World War II to the Oval Office and the end of the Cold War. Here you’ll meet a man of patrician manners, wartime heroics, Texas assimilation, party and personal loyalty, with a refined sense of power that carried him into history. Meet the George Bush you didn’t know.”—Tom Brokaw
“This riveting biography by the incomparable Jon Meacham gives George H. W. Bush his well-deserved place in history. Destiny and Power is full of surprises, revealing 41’s important role in scene after crucial historical scene of the past seven decades. President Bush used to say that he could never quite convey his “heartbeat” to Americans. Now, using a treasure of heretofore unseen diaries and other documents, as well as his own detailed interviews, Meacham takes us behind closed doors to show us what this sometimes misunderstood leader was really like.”—Michael Beschloss
About the Author
Jon Meacham received the Pulitzer Prize for his 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion. He is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, American Gospel, and Franklin and Winston. Meacham, who teaches at Vanderbilt University and at The University of the South, is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He lives in Nashville and in Sewanee with his wife and children.
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Top Customer Reviews
An element that I did enjoy was the backstory to the Bush family in general. There is no hiding the aspect that it was and has been an affluent family for quite some time and gives insight into this rise of upper class, it even takes the time to go into a bit of the backstory of Andover, discuss Bush’s experiences at the school (at least from the lens of others) and moves in to Bush’s time at Phillips Academy. The relationship between “Poppy” (as Bush was called) and Barbara Bush is quite charming, having excerpts from early communication between the two, a relationship that began in 1941/42, prior to Bush entering the military. A random tid-bit, Bush sent a letter to his mother talking about wanting to remain a virgin prior to marriage, as he believed that was a character trait, and would be upset if his wife had “wife had known some other man,” essentially, he wasn’t a fan of a double standard.
The book chronicles Bush’s time during the war, followed up with his time at Yale. It is interesting to note that Bush had a family while he was attending Yale and also played baseball. It is interesting to note that there was an aversion to relying on family money post-graduation from college, hence why he did not pursue a Rhodes scholarship. Bush moved out to Texas to pursue some business options, but there is a significant focus on their child Robin who passed away at 3 and a half. The mourning is touched on by the author, in particular Bush’s own recollection of the passing of his daughter, the maintaining of her photo (even in the White House), and inability to even talk about it in present day. There is an interesting aspect in which Barbara recognized her mourning over Robin was having a negative impact on “Georgie” and she realized that she had to refocus her life in order to be a good mother.
The book continues, I worry about just rambling on about the whole thing in this review. However, there are a lot of letters that are referenced, interviews, and diary entries that come up. There are also these moments of humanistic insight of the Bush’s, such as their move to Washington and the vast number of house guests that they would have, with Bush inviting the moving men to even spend the night the first night that they lived in the house. It’s interesting to see the Bush’s as individuals who are very affable and young and welcoming to others. This is also reflected in Bush’s choice to see Johnson off when his presidency ended rather than being in town for Republican festivities. This courtesy also emerges again later on as Bush passes the presidency to Clinton and asks for only one element, which is to maintain an emphasis on volunteerism.
If you have the Kindle version, the book is only about 55% of the actual Kindle; the rest are citations. The reading goes all the way through Bush 43’rds time in the office and after, discussing the relationship that father and son had together during this time. Prior to this point in the story it talks about Bush’s relationships and more publically known presence, with additional vignettes about how he interacted with people in private, more often than not maintaining respect and courtesy. I really liked the pictures, there were a fair number I had not seen before and gave a very humanistic perspective of Bush.
I'm not generally a fan of the author, but found this book summed up Bush and tied his story together. His joys,his sorrows, his sense of duty, his longing, and eventually, maybe, his acceptance of who he was - maybe just a very good person with an extraordinary sense of service.