Higher Purpose: Profiles in Presidential Courage / Edition 1

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Overview

In the American political system today, courage and the presidency are rarely spoken of in the same sentence. Forgotten is the wisdom of Andrew Jackson: "One man of courage makes a majority." Thomas J. Whalen's A Higher Purpose seeks to prove the truth behind Jackson's words by relating the stories of nine historic decisions made by commanders-in-chief over two centuries of American history. From Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation to Theodore Roosevelt's confrontation with the business trusts, these vignettes show how some of our presidents have demonstrated the capacity to place their political lives on the line for a higher purpose.
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Editorial Reviews

James N. Giglio
Modeled after John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer-Prize winning Profiles In Courage, which focused on eight American political figures who put aside political considerations and sectional interests for the national welfare, Thomas Whalen concentrates on nine U.S. presidents who similarly exhibited moral courage while confronting national crises. An excellent read especially for the non-specialist as well as a worthy sequel to the JFK study.
Donald A. Ritchie
This is a timely and engaging study of moral courage in high office, offering profiles of nine American presidents—including a few surprising choices—who took stands they believed right, regardless of the political costs and personal consequences.
Leon Panetta
These historic examples of presidential courage are needed now more than ever. Too often today, we confuse obstinance or defiance with leadership. Strong leaders are moral leaders who understand their first duty is to the nation not themselves. The author gives us hope that perhaps presidents can again find that higher purpose to leadership.
ForeWord Reviews - Karl Helicher
Enjoyable and informative recounting of . . . American history's greatest events and of the brave presidential decisions that made them possible.
Publishers Weekly

Boston University social scientist Whalen (Kennedy Versus Lodge) insightfully applies to residents of the White House JFK's rubric from his Profiles in Courage. As Kennedy did, Whalen seeks heroes who display a willingness to go against the political tide in order to do what is right. The ultimate example is Gerald Ford, who took the profoundly unpopular step of pardoning Nixon and then paid the political price in the next presidential election. Whalen also cites FDR's maneuvering to support Great Britain against the Nazis in the days before Pearl Harbor despite an isolationist and antiwar electorate; Harry Truman's firing of the abrasive but wildly popular Douglas MacArthur; and Kennedy's siding with civil rights interests challenging segregation at the University of Alabama. Several other examples are less obvious instances of presidential courage. These include Andrew Jackson's heartfelt yet ill-advised fight against a national bank and Grover Cleveland's opposition to the annexation of the Hawaiian islands. Two more events in Whalen's roster are debatable. Was Lincoln going against, or with, political currents when he drafted the Emancipation Proclamation? And was Theodore Roosevelt not catering to his large Progressive base when he broke up the Northern Securities railroad companies' combination? These quibbles aside, Whalen's study constitutes intriguingly construed history, eloquently told. Illus. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A highly readable exercise forthrightly modeled on JFK's Profiles in Courage, examining nine instances in which American presidents have acted against their own political interest. Some are well known, others not-or at least not in their full details. Everyone knows, for example, that the Emancipation Proclamation aroused scorn in the rebellious states; few recall how bitterly it divided Lincoln's nominal supporters in the North. Whalen (Social Science/Boston Univ.) opens each tale of moral courage with a mini-portrait of the president involved. Some episodes feel too large for the book's slight frame: Andrew Jackson's war against the aristocratic Bank of the United States, which plunged the nation into financial panic; Teddy Roosevelt's prosecution of J. Pierpont Morgan's Northern Securities Company as an illegal railroad combination under the antitrust laws; and FDR's Lend Lease agreement with Britain, which frightened and angered a large portion of the mostly isolationist public. For the most part, however, the author has chosen bite-sized incidents of presidential courage perfectly suited to his theme: Truman's firing of insubordinate World War II icon General Douglas MacArthur; Chester Arthur's unexpected transformation from a machine politician to a civil service reformer; JFK's 1963 address committing his administration to civil rights; Gerald Ford's unpopular pardoning of Richard Nixon. Whalen pointedly distinguishes between presidential courage and presidential recklessness, using the example of George Bush's decision to invade Iraq, but at the same time somewhat contradictorily laments recent presidents' willingness "to sacrifice principle for the sake of political expediency."He acknowledges this will not be "the final word," and indeed one might wonder why Jimmy Carter's relinquishment of the Panama Canal in 1977 was not every bit as morally courageous as Grover Cleveland's principled refusal to annex Hawaii in 1893. Uneven but entertaining.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566636308
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 9/25/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas J. Whalen teaches social science at Boston University and has written Kennedy versus Lodge and Dynasty's End. He lives in Peabody, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     vii
Preface     xi
Slaying a Hydra of Corruption   Andrew Jackson$dThe Bank War     3
Ending a Monstrous Injustice   Abraham Lincoln$dThe Emancipation Proclamation     27
From Gentleman Boss to Reformer   Chester A. Arthur     52
A Matter of Honor$dGrover Cleveland$dThe Hawaiian Annexation Controversy     77
Taking On the Trusts   Theodore Roosevelt$dThe Northern Securities Case     101
Saving Democracy   Franklin Roosevelt$dThe Destroyers-for-Bases Deal     126
Slaying an American Caesar   Harry Truman   Douglas MacArthur     152
Confronting a Moral Issue   John F. Kennedy$dThe Integration of the University of Alabama     178
Ending a National Nightmare   Gerald Ford   Richard Nixon     205
A Note on Sources     231
Index     239
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