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Customer Review

on January 27, 2003
J. C. Watts' book can be read on two levels. On the one hand, it is an inspirational story of a boy from a small town who grew up to achieve the American Dream. On the other, it is a manifesto which boldly describes how a "compassionate conservative" approach to solving problems can make America "a better place."
Watts, who is black, grew up in a rural community in eastern Oklahoma and came of age before racial segregation and Jim Crow policies had completely died out. Although he faced formidable obstacles to success, he found inspiration from his parents, his coach, the legendary Barry Switzer, and others who molded his character and instilled in him the virtues of faith, personal responsibility, hard work, and tenacity. Armed with these virtues, Watts found success on the football field, where he become a star quarterback for the University of Oklahoma, and on Capitol Hill, where he quickly gained a reputation as a mover and shaker after his election to Congress. Throughout his book, Watts emphasizes his formula for success: focusing on an objective, acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve that objective, and maintaining the right mental attitude.
Watts describes how his conservative beliefs are a natural outgrowth of the virtues and values in which he had come to believe and from his growing realization that the Welfare State has been a failure. His views appear to fall into the school of thought which Ronald Reagan dubbed "the Creative Society" in 1967, and which George W. Bush later rechristened "Compassionate Conservatism." He believes that the federal government's approach to solving domestic problems should be to set an agenda for action and then remain in the background while private and faith-based organizations do most of the work aimed at carrying out the agenda. This approach, argues Watts, can be effective in dealing with issues ranging from social security reform to pollution abatement. Accordingly, Watts calls for removing government restrictions on such organizations so they can act effectively.
Although he is a committed conservative, Watts remains an independent thinker, and he recounts the occasions in which he has crossed swords with his fellow Republicans and conservatives.
Whether or not readers agree, Watts' arguments should inspire them to think "out of the box" and consider new approaches to solving social problems. In any case, readers should find his life story to be inspirational.
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