Stephen A. Douglas: Champion of the Unionby Mike Bonner, Arthur Schlesinger
This skillful Vermont politician and great orator was born in Brandon, Vermont, in 1813. Stephen Arnold Douglas was interested in debating and politics while growing up. After a brief career as a schoolteacher, Stephen obtained his law license in Illinois. Thus began a long career that centered on politics and public service. Stephen met fellow representative Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois House of Representatives. These two men would challenge each other for almost 20 years. They would continue their rivalry on a national level in 1858 when both men ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate, leading to their famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. Douglas was also involved in the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1853, both of which would affect the debate over slavery as the country headed for civil war.
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This short novel is a tongue-in-cheek look at the dismal economic situation currently taking place on a small California college campus, where tough financial decisions bring about severe disruption and hilarity to a once very proud institution of higher learning, the home of the Famous Union Fighting Orchids, whose motto is and always has been, "Just wait until next year." In a land of severe economic straitjackets, the college, as the result of an executive decision in late August, was forced to forever abolish its entire freshman composition program two weeks before the newly hired coordinator reports for duty. The decision is a landmark one, Famous Union College having been the first and only institution of higher learning in the entire country to disband the writing program that is a strict requirement everywhere else under the American flag, and always has been. The colorful characters find themselves in a fast paced read of opposing but intersecting motives and desires, the strains of the financial devastation the college now suddenly finds itself in bringing terrible toil to all those impacted, which is everybody. Though the tone is light, the characters are well drawn and the struggles they undergo are not far removed from what is actually taking place in our economically strapped nation today. Their idiosyncrasies and strong passion for their often-conflicting desires humanly demonstrate much of what society is indeed feeling in the country today, making this a very timely contribution to the foibles of living with the terrible money throes we find ourselves having to endure in today's strange and wonderful world of the United States.