This Noble Land: My Vision for America

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Deteriorating race relations, a growing disparity between rich and poor, the decline of education and a growing anti-intellectualism, inadequate health care - these are among the fracture points that Mr. Michener believes threaten America's vitality and its future. As a scholar of world history, a dedicated, lifelong public servant, and a student of his own and other cultures, Michener offers a broad and learned perspective on these much debated issues. He compares America's shift from a producer to a consumer ...
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This Noble Land: My Vision for America

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Overview

Deteriorating race relations, a growing disparity between rich and poor, the decline of education and a growing anti-intellectualism, inadequate health care - these are among the fracture points that Mr. Michener believes threaten America's vitality and its future. As a scholar of world history, a dedicated, lifelong public servant, and a student of his own and other cultures, Michener offers a broad and learned perspective on these much debated issues. He compares America's shift from a producer to a consumer nation to a similar movement in sixteenth-century Spain - a movement that presaged the decline of the Spanish empire. In today's control of vast wealth by a tiny handful of people, he sees parallels with the Catholic Church's monopoly on wealth in pre-Reformation Europe. He evaluates the Contract with America and other current political initiatives in light of the Founding Fathers' understanding of the social contract and the responsibility the more fortunate have to those who are less privileged. And as a lifelong practitioner and patron of the arts, Michener writes movingly of the arts as agents for change - for transforming the soul and ensuring a civilization's greatness - even as he condemns the anti-art stance of many politicians today. Michener draws not only on his knowledge of history but also on over eight decades of living as an American. He recalls how as a young boy in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse he pledged allegiance to the flag, and through the years his reverence for the sound principles on which America was founded has remained strong. Through the trials of young manhood during the Great Depression and the Second World War, and through the decades since, James Michener has been deeply involved in America's political life. He has experienced and studied the qualities that have made America what he calls "the outstanding success" among nations, and in his wise, opinionated, and impassioned book he calls on Americans to hold fast to America's
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 88-year-old Michener here reflects on what he believes to be the major problems the U.S. faces and offers suggestions on how to solve them. He presents a moderate and humane vision, advising increased federal spending on education, the arts and health care. In one particularly thoughtful essay, he discusses the erosion of race relations and argues passionately for the necessity of affirmative action. He is a believer in the moral value of work and the traditional family. However, he strongly disagrees with what he sees as punitive financial measures against teenage mothers proposed by the Republican Congress. To redistribute the nation's wealth, Michener supports a sharp increase in income taxes on the wealthy. Michener's writing throughout is straightforward and congenial, informed by myriad personal examples and energized by the passion of his hopes and fears for his beloved country. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Venerable American novelist Michener offers his reflections on the current state of the United States and his recommendations for solving the problems he sees. His 13 criteria indicative of a nation's nobility are carefully and intelligently chosen, though idiosyncratic. Although Michener avoids media-driven flavor-of-the-month issues, it is difficult to consider a book on contemporary issues complete when it barely mentions the environment, immigration, the trade deficit, or abortion. However, the book's best moments are not ideological but personal observations on the nation's problems. Each chapter ends with a series of recommendations, which are rarely persuasive but seem mostly a tepid mlange of meliorism and wishful thinking and only reinforce the melancholy induced by Michener's eloquent delineation of the nation's woes. Perhaps Michener himself senses this, for in the final chapter he predicts another half-century of American greatness followed by a murkier outlook. Not strictly an essential purchase, but this moving book will serve as a starting point for many a discussion group and term paper.Fritz Buckallew, Univ. of Central Oklahoma Lib., Edmond
Kirkus Reviews
In a stirring essay on America's past and future, octogenarian novelist Michener (The World is My Home, 1992, etc.) outlines his native land's strong and weak points, and his hopes and fears for America's future.

Drawing on his travels, historical research, and experiences in politics, Michener cites numerous criteria for determining the country's strength: social and monetary stability, a political system that allows for an orderly transfer of power, an adequate health care system and effective schools and free libraries, adequate employment opportunities for the young, the existence of a tax system that balances wealth between rich and poor, the prevalence of churches that provide moral guidance, the existence of recreational and cultural opportunity, and equitable treatment of disparate ethnic groups. While acknowledging America's defects in some of these areas, the author characterizes the US as a country basically noble (that is, generous and courageous) in purpose and qualities, but he argues that several trends threaten to diminish America's nobility as a society. Although his analysis of the characteristics of a noble society may be controversial in some particulars, Michener will encounter little disagreement in his diagnosis of the US's principal problems: rising violence (he blames it on America becoming too much of a "macho" society), deteriorating families, a declining educational system, the shift from a producing to a consuming economy, declining health care, and ominously worsening racial relations. In his analysis of the results of the congressional elections of 1994, Michener rejects facile nostrums of the left and right in arguing that while some Republican ideas should be supported (like tort reform), many others should be opposed as undermining the nation. Among these are proposals to ban deficit spending, return a great deal of federal power to the states, and eliminate affirmative action programs.

Not all will agree with the specifics of Michener's arguments; still, the author makes an admirable effort to define what has made our country great and how to preserve what is best about it.

From the Publisher
“A book-length essay on the often worrying, often inspiring course of America in the nine decades of Michener’s life.”The Washington Post
 
“Michener is more interested in fixing the problems than in fixing the blame.”The Dallas Morning News
 
“Michener’s are the beach books that, unlike most other beach books, leave you smarter than you were when you started reading. Each delivers the product of all that research, doled out to the reader at just the right rate. You know right away who the bad guys are—the petty ones, the stingy ones. The heroes are generous and energetic and smart and, above all, unprejudiced. The real-life villains in This Noble Land are the people Michener perceives as ‘petty, mean and vengeful.’”St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“Stirring . . . an admirable effort to define what has made our country great and how to preserve what is best about it.”Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679451525
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/8/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.41 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

James A. Michener was one of the world’s most popular writers, the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Tales of the South Pacific, the bestselling novels The Source, Hawaii, Alaska, Chesapeake, Centennial, Texas, Caribbean, and Caravans, and the memoir The World Is My Home. Michener served on the advisory council to NASA and the International Broadcast Board, which oversees the Voice of America. Among dozens of awards and honors, he received America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1977, and an award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1983 for his commitment to art in America. Michener died in 1997 at the age of ninety.

Biography

James Albert Michener is a Pulitzer prize-winning author reknowned for his historical epics. A prolific novelist and relentless researcher, Michener wrote over books. Despite his substantial commercial success, he was known to be a humble man and a was an active philanthropist. His many beloved works include Tales of the South Pacific, which was adapted for Broadway and film as South Pacific, Hawaii and The Source.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      James Albert Michener (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 3, 1907
    1. Date of Death:
      October 16, 1997
    2. Place of Death:
      Austin, Texas

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