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Moyers on Democracy Hardcover – May 6, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran journalist and author Moyers (Moyers on America, The Power of Myth) staunchly attacks conservative government as one of "millions of Americans who are restless to get on with their revolution." In this volume-a collection of speeches, addresses, talks and lectures from as far back as the '80s-Moyers argues that participatory citizenship breathes life into American democracy, and whatever undermines active citizenship threatens to destroy the system. Moyers reminds readers that the U.S. stands "on the shoulders of brave ghosts," and challenges them to treat, with courage, the country's socio-political ills. The author provides illustrative portraits of dear friends like Fred Friendly and Hubert Humphrey, positioning himself among passionate journalists and left-leaning politicians. Some may recoil from his lobbyist outrage (they "hide... behind the flag while ripping off a country in crisis"), but his long-lived devotion to the American ideal of self-governance, on the whole, guides him well. His insight, sweeping political and historical expertise, and unflinching defense of his ideals should captivate both scholars and concerned citizens, though it's more likely to appeal to those already on Moyers's wavelength.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Moyers, best known for his show on PBS, is also a skilled orator who has for decades been sharing his thoughts on democracy with diverse audiences. This collection of speeches offers a conscientious, passionate examination of those principles and ideals that rightly provoke pride in America and the shortcomings that should evoke shame, as Moyers points to assaults on the U.S. Constitution, a growing divide between the rich and the poor, and weakening of press independence. This collection reflects Moyers’ understanding of the importance of getting things right—not just the facts but the tone and tenor of the time and the sensibilities of the people. The collection also reflects his understanding of the importance of setting things right. He recalls a boyhood spent in a loving and religious small Texas town, where he was oblivious to the mistreatment of black citizens. He offers moving tributes to giants who upheld the highest ideals of democracy and simple human decency, including William Sloane Coffin, Hubert H. Humphrey, Lady Bird Johnson, and Barbara Jordan. He begins each essay with the context of time then and now in the continuum of an examination of American ideals in separate sections devoted to public service, history, politics, the media, and religion. Fans of his television show will hear Moyers’ well-modulated voice in these thoughtful and thought-provoking speeches and lectures. --Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385523807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385523806
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,474,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Theodore A. Rushton on May 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the great qualities of America is its conscience, sometimes known as that quiet but reasoned internal voice which arises when one is otherwise having a great time.

Moyers is an eloquent voice of that conscience, a clear and positive contrast to narcissist negative nagging typified by Rush Limbaugh. Nags are always pessimistic; conscience encourges one to be better. In the best of times, as in the worst of times, Americans share an optimism they can improve themselves and their society.

Nags have a purpose, if you like "boss others around" attitudes.

Conscience is a small quiet voice of personal responsibility, challenge and constructive incentives. America is a land of boundless excess; after the ruin of the Civil War, it took only 40 years to become the world's richest and most powerful nation. Andrew Carnegie typified the success of excess; he created a dynamic modern steel industry, then the world's finest public library system.

Moyers made his early contributions in politics. Instead of acquiring a personal fortune, he became a founder of the Peace Corps, one of the lasting elements of American compassion. He then turned to "the library function", providing people with information.

Unlike the compulsive nature of moral nags, no one is forced to read a book and no one is forced to listen to Moyers. Instead, the strength of both is intelligent acceptance by the community. Don't be put off by the cover photo of Moyers; he looks like a nag, but he reads like an inspiration.

This book offers some of the best of Moyers over the past 20 years. It is a collection of gems to remind us the best qualities of America are not the politics of bitterness, the greed of selfishness or the pessimism of dismal doom.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have had the opportunity to listen to some of these speeches on the Democracy Now telecast/radio show (best news there is IMHO). Bill Moyers is the most genuine patriot of our time. His speeches challenge America to fight off the 'Great Simplifiers' and take a deeper look not only at our current situation, but also at our past and future. Simply brilliant in its inspiration.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been lucky to hear Bill Moyers give three speeches live and every time, he reliably stirs my emotions and gives me the chills. The amazing thing is he's talking about democracy, freedom, and justice, while weaving in history and discussion of the way the media should work.

Whenever a new Bill Moyers speech transcript becomes available, it's required reading. So this book is a real gem, pulling them together.

What you will discover is Bill Moyers is brilliant at weaving together stories of real people with history, occasionally mythology and the most important issues of our time.
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Format: Hardcover
In this collection of 28 speeches given at conferences, award dinners, anniversaries of various organizations or events, eulogies, etc, Moyers comments on the state of American democracy, or the ability of ordinary citizens to participate, to be empowered. His standard for comparison is largely the concept of democracy formalized in the Constitution and his take on the broad equality of colonial times, ignoring of course that political participation was confined to propertied white men - a distinct minority. He does note that some of us were regarded as 3/5 of a person for apportioning representation.

In these series of lectures, Moyers repeats such themes as growing income and wealth disparities and the subsequent disproportionate influence in government, lack of health care for millions, lack of access to education and the consequent ignorance of our past, the unwillingness of the mass media to report forthrightly and fully on current realities, and more broadly the lack of community interaction and the idea of a shared destiny. He is most assuredly correct to note that shopping has replaced democracy in America.

The problem with these types of anthologies is the repetition and the lack of elaboration and development of a broader critique and understanding. For example, the very idea of democracy is highly nebulous. Does the colonial society of rural, subsistence farmers have a lot of relevance to an integrated, industrial urban society? The labor movement, Populists, and the socialists starting fighting big-money interests at least 125 years ago with only marginal successes along the way. The lack of democracy, whatever that may be, seems to be inherent in the American system.
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Format: Hardcover
I enthusiastically nominate "Moyers On Democracy" as an outstanding book for 2008. This book laid a hasty hand on my cynicism about government in the introduction when he wrote that books like this one are viewed with suspicion by media moguls. They have "decided that uncovering the inner workings of public and private power is boring and will drive viewers and readers away to greener pastures of pablum." You've got me, Bill! So I began to read. And he didn't disappoint. If there is any book that will focus a fierce searchlight on the deals related to all the political battles and scandals that are engaging us in this present time then this is one.

Each of his essays and speeches begins with insightful musings and personal reflections from his years growing up in Texas with a father who was a devotee of FDR, continue with his flirtations with ministry, describe his time with Lyndon Johnson as senator and president, include his forage into the Peace Corps, embrace his years as publisher and news analyst and crown his career as producer of public television's groundbreaking series such as "The Power of Myth" with Joseph Campbell.

Here we have potent examples of both the breadth of his interest and the depth of his probing analysis of the issues of democracy. For example, no other journalist, to my knowledge, has had the audacious courage (or maybe foolhardiness!
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