The Founders wrote in 1776 that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are unalienable American rights. In The Pursuit of Happiness in Times of War, Carl M. Cannon shows how this single phrase is one of almost unbelievable historical power. It was this rich rhetorical vein that New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and President George W. Bush tapped into after 9/11 when they urged Americans to go to ballgames, to shop, to do things that made them happy even in the face of unrivaled horror. From the ...
The Founders wrote in 1776 that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are unalienable American rights. In The Pursuit of Happiness in Times of War, Carl M. Cannon shows how this single phrase is one of almost unbelievable historical power. It was this rich rhetorical vein that New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and President George W. Bush tapped into after 9/11 when they urged Americans to go to ballgames, to shop, to do things that made them happy even in the face of unrivaled horror. From the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terrorism, Americans have lived out this creed. They have been helped in this effort by their elected leaders, who in times of war inevitably hark back to Jefferson's soaring language. If the former Gotham mayor and the current president had perfect pitch in the days after September 11, so too have American presidents and other leaders throughout our nation's history.
In this book, Mr. Cannon—a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist—traces the roots of Jefferson's powerful phrase and explores how it has been embraced by wartime presidents for two centuries. Mr. Cannon draws on original research at presidential libraries and interviews with Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, among others. He discussed with the presidents exactly what the phrase means to them. Mr. Cannon charts how Americans' understanding of the pursuit of happiness has changed through the years as the nation itself has changed.
In the end, America's political leaders have all come to the same conclusion as its spiritual leaders: True happiness—either for a nation or an individual—does not come from conquest or fortune or even from the attainment of freedom itself. It comes in the pursuit of happiness for the benefit of others. This may be one truth that contemporary liberals and conservatives can agree on. John McCain and Jimmy Carter both envision happiness as a sacrifice to a higher calling, embodied in everything from McCain's time as a prisoner of war to the N
This optimistic, meandering look at the peculiarly American phrase "pursuit of happiness" is strong on research but weak on analysis. What did Thomas Jefferson mean in the Declaration of Independence when he listed "the Pursuit of Happiness" among the "unalienable rights" of all men, and what has the phrase meant to Americans since? Veteran journalist Cannon (Boy Genius) explores the term's origins and uses, particularly in times of war. Beginning with the observation that Americans after 9/11 and during World War II showed their stuff as patriots by doing things like attending baseball games and eating pie, he proposes that the pursuit of happiness is "the best working definition of freedom that has ever been devised." Much of American history, Cannon argues, is best seen as a fight to allow more people at home and abroad to enjoy the right to chase personal dreams. He sets forth this thesis with long quotations from American presidents and investigations of such topics as Jefferson; the Civil War; Franklin D. Roosevelt; American generosity; and the current U.S. intervention in Iraq. Cannon's vision is cheery, his style friendly and informative. But numerous digressions blur the book's focus, and the author takes a generally shallow approach. Like a civic booster talking up his town, Cannon never subjects official pronouncements about "freedom" and "pursuit of happiness" to critical scrutiny. The result is a dull centrism that winds up as an apology for the present war in Iraq. The book has some good storytelling, but treads too softly to satisfy serious inquirers about Jefferson's phrase. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Cannon has filled Pursuit of Happiness with lots of tasty details that make the broader lessons about politics and presidents go down more easily.
The Washington Times
A highly readable and interesting volume.
A highly readable and interesting volume.
In this sprawling meditation, Carl Cannon, a White House correspondent for National Journal, looks at how a large cast of notables have spoken of the pursuit of happiness during wartime. The results are sometimes surprising.
Carl M. Cannon is a White House correspondent for National Journal, Washington's highly respected, non-partisan weekly journal on politics and government. Previously he worked for six different newspapers over a twenty-year span. He was a member of the San Jose Mercury News staff awarded the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area in 1989. He has written for numerous magazines including The Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, Forbes ASAP, Brill's Content, George, Mother Jones, and National Review. He is the coauthor of Boy Genius, a new book about top White House adviser Karl Rove. A native of San Francisco, Cannon attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.
Chapter 1 Preface
Chapter 2 I American Pie
Chapter 3 II A Felicitous Choice of Words
Chapter 4 III Everywhere in Chains
Chapter 5 IV Unfinished Work
Chapter 6 V "Peace Now!"
Chapter 7 VI Happy Warriors
Chapter 8 VII More Unfinished Work
Chapter 9 VIII Pursuit of Knowledge
Chapter 10 IX True Happiness
Chapter 11 X Freedom Man
Chapter 12 Epilogue