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Live From the Campaign Trail: The Greatest Presidential Campaign Speeches of the Twentieth Century and How They Shaped Modern America Paperback – June 24, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—These selections work as an effective lens through which to look at and think about major political issues. Cohen's introductions to the speeches provide helpful insights into the history and themes of each period. History buffs will be interested in the mannered way the candidates spoke—about the Vietnam War, the economy, civil rights, and more. The book also functions as a strong tool to learn the basics of rhetoric. From the highbrow speeches of Woodrow Wilson and the folksy wit of Harry Truman to the polished prose of Ronald Reagan and the podium-pounding style of Jesse Jackson, each candidate had his own special way of addressing the people. Although many of the speeches are edited here, Cohen provides notes throughout to mark what has been removed and offers a Web site for anyone interested in reading the full texts. The concluding bibliographic essay functions as an effective pathway to even deeper research.—Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

An anthology with commentary, Cohen’s selection of campaign speech making spans the century, from William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech of 1896 to Bill Clinton’s 1992 acceptance speech. Representing a declamation from most of the presidents of that period, plus several from unsuccessful candidates such as Adlai Stevenson and Barry Goldwater, Cohen’s volume demonstrates the rhetorical structure and political purpose of the speeches. A practitioner of and lecturer on political speech writing, Cohen identifies the speakers’ general temporal pattern of connecting America’s past and present to an attack on whatever or whoever seems to be impeding its progress toward a better future. Pausing to digress on how the speaker has deployed stereotypical images of the Democratic and Republican parties, Cohen proves most insightful about the standard of success of these speeches: winning the election. For that, eloquence is secondary to aligning with the electorate’s mood, as Harding and Truman proved. With historical coverage indicating the images the candidates of 2008 must counter (Democrats as doves; Republicans as privileged), Cohen offers a timely source for understanding the craft behind this year’s oratory. --Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1st edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802716970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802716972
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,325,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a professional speechwriter, I've been acquiring books about great oratory since the mid-1990s. The other day, I picked up what might be the best I've ever seen, Michael Cohen's Live from the Campaign Trail.

Most of the speech-themed books I own were gifts. While the thought was always appreciated, I can't necessarily say the same about the books. The problem is that I keep getting the same one over and over again - some compendium with a title along the lines of the Greatest Speeches of All Time. Each of the books was fine in their own right, but none of them offered much more than the text of speeches, which could easily be pulled off the Internet.

Live from the Campaign Trail sets itself apart with introductory essays that often prove to be as enjoyable and engrossing as the speeches themselves. Perhaps my favorite book in the speech genre would be Gary Wills' Lincoln at Gettysburg, which combines deft analysis of Lincoln's rhetoric and the historical and political context of these remarks to give you a much deeper appreciation of the Gettysburg Address. Cohen manages to pull this trick off time and again throughout his book. I've always heard that William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech was supposed to be one of the best ever. I'd read it before, but I'll admit that I never really "got it." Something able an 1896 speech about the gold standard seemed so, well, 1896. But Cohen's essay really brought the speech to life for me, and the same could be true for just about every speech in this book. You may have read many of these speeches before, but you've never read them like this.

The book isn't just smart. It's fun. Who wouldn't enjoy re-visiting Bill Clinton's Sister Souljah speech?
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Format: Paperback
This book is perfect for a campaign season in which oratory, thanks to Barack Obama, really matters again. Cohen is an insightful tour guide on a trip through a well-selected sampling of 20th century speeches. He wraps Bryan, FDR, Nixon, Reagan and others in an historical context that does a fine job of explaining to contemporary readers how audiences received the candidates' words. Although Obama's name appears only in the epilogue, readers may find themselves thinking about him quite a bit--how does Obama's renowned speech on race, for example, stack up against some of the best campaign speeches in history?
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Format: Paperback
Cohen's book is terrific. It includes some of the most fascinating, important presidential campaign speeches of the past century. It provides an essential guide to understanding Obama and McCain as they debate the big issues in 2008. And Cohen's introduction and commentary are chock full of smart insights about the ideas, style, and politics of each of the speeches included in this book. A great read and a significant book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lots of good background documents
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