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Troublemaker: Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again

Troublemaker: Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again

4.2 17
by Christine O'Donnell

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The 2010 candidate for Senate—and established political "troublemaker"*--voices the quiet anger in America today: where it comes from, what it's asking for, and where it's going from here

*Time Magazine

From the moment she upset a heavily-favored incumbent in the primary for the


The 2010 candidate for Senate—and established political "troublemaker"*--voices the quiet anger in America today: where it comes from, what it's asking for, and where it's going from here

*Time Magazine

From the moment she upset a heavily-favored incumbent in the primary for the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Joe Biden, Christine O'Donnell made headlines. Though she didn't win the general election, O'Donnell did win the designation of 2010's Most Covered Candidate. And what people were talking about wasn't just gossip: they responded to a fresh, unencumbered voice that appealed to voter frustration with politics—and politicians—as usual.

America's strength lies in its government "by the people, for the people", but too many of those people feel they are now just labeled featureless residents of "flyover country", told what to think and what they can and cannot do by an entrenched, reigning class of elites. O'Donnell's candidacy gave hope that the voices of real people—the people—not only can be heard but can also become a force. Part of this hope is invested in the nascent Tea Party, but most of it is invested in individual voters who are willing to work hard and make sacrifices for what they believe in, not what backroom dealing and a bloated federal government has mandated is good for them.

Troublemaker is about where O'Donnell comes from—the Philadelphia suburbs with five kids to a room—and what she weathered in the 2010 election. But the core of the book is a clear, straightforward discussion of an America that yearns to embrace freedom and opportunity through personal responsibility, and how it is hamstrung and stymied by excessive regulation, taxation, and the sanctimony of a "nanny state." And Troublemaker will deliver an important, rousing message about what we do with the quiet anger in America today: where we can go, and how strong we can be, from here. Warning readers that challenging the status quo makes the political establishment push back, O'Donnell wants to build a movement that will continue to goad it.

It's practical, too, since O'Donnell believes in power through participation: it's not enough to grumble about how things are going; pitch in and try to change things if you care. O'Donnell details how she participated by running for high office as an everywoman, but also shows how attending town council meetings, organizing a petition drive, making an effort to meet a staffer in your local representative's office, or simply reading the minutes from your community board can make a difference.

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Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again

By Christine O'Donnell

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2011 Christine O'Donnell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9579-5


Where I Come From

The O'Donnell family quilt is a colorful patchwork of classes and cultures, and political affiliations, but the common thread that knit us all together is a tireless work ethic, a fierce determination to stand for something (and for each other), and an enormous sense of pride, place, and love.

We have our disagreements, just like any other American family, but we work past them and set them aside because we love each other. We come together from all these different, sometimes opposing views and opinions, and we find our way to common ground, to a place of shared purpose and meaning.

I think every American family is its own little melting pot. In ours, there was a whole lot of Italian and Irish, with a healthy dose of American blue blood thrown into the mix.

Initially, I wasn't really sure about including any stories from my childhood, because they don't only involve me. My parents and siblings were put through so much scrutiny and hardship when I ran for office and declared myself a public person. The moment I became a candidate, my life became an open book — and my life is so intertwined with their lives that my family was thrown right out there with me. Then I realized that my goal in writing this book is to inspire real people to engage in the political process. And real people have real lives and real problems.

When we share the hard truths of our lives they often stand as an inspiration to others. We've all had our share of rough patches, and I believe we lift each other up when we talk about them; we can learn from each other's mistakes, and find strength in the struggle.

My family is close. We all have our own special relationships with our parents and with one another and this extends to the next generation as well; my siblings have great spouses and well-adjusted children. By all outward appearances, we're one big happy family. And this is true from our own perspectives as well. That's not to say we didn't have our problems. We did. Along with the great times, we had some tough times as a family. To the outside world it might have looked like we were the Waltons — living in the suburbs instead of the mountains. And in a lot of ways, that was true. But in addition to the financial struggles that you could imagine would arise in raising six children — yes, there were six of us — my dad drank heavily during my childhood. He doesn't drink like that anymore. And I'm proud of the way we've powered past it all. Our difficulties don't define us. It's how we deal with them that shape who we are. Frankly, I'm a little wary of politicians with "perfect" pasts, and I've come to regard the imperfections that have found my family over the years as badges of honor, not marks of shame.

My parents are the true heroes of my story — and were it not for their strength, their faith, and their boundless courage my journey could have gone another way. My mother's refusal to let her family fall apart on the back of my father's alcoholism was, and remains, an inspiration. My father's willingness to let himself be lifted by the love of his family to a place where he could do the hard work necessary to make himself whole ... well, it's been a kind of revelation.

Ah, but I don't mean to get ahead of the story — my story, our story ...

My parents grew up in the same Philadelphia neighborhood, so they knew each other as kids. My mom, Carole Chillano, is Italian; her parents were first-generation Italian-Americans. My dad, Dan O'Donnell, is Irish-American, with family roots in this country that quite possibly reach all the way back to our Founding Fathers. My parents lived on opposite ends of what they've always called the Corpus Christi part of town. You won't find that name on a map of the city, but in those days, to hear my parents tell it, Philadelphia neighborhoods were known by the churches in each community. My mom lived on the Italian side of the neighborhood and my dad lived on the Irish side, with a playground in between, on Clearfield Street. They started dating as teenagers, and they've been together ever since. (They even married as teenagers, so they got a good running start!) And they still keep in touch with their neighborhood friends from the playground.

My paternal grandmother, Kathleen Carroll, had a real zest for living. She was witty, charming, and full of spunk. I remember visiting in the hospital when she was dying and she said, "Go get my purse, let's go dancing!" — and she was serious!

Kathleen Carroll came from a long line of Carrolls — for a time, one of the most prominent families in Philadelphia. We were always told that one of Grandmom's great-great-great uncles was Charles Carroll, a United States Senator from Maryland, the longest-living and last-surviving signer of our Declaration of Independence. We were never able to confirm a direct relation, but I mention the connection here because I know my nay-saying critics are fact checking this book. I'm hoping to use their scrutiny to my advantage — either to corroborate our long-presumed link to Charles Carroll of Carrollton or to set it to rest.

Just in case, we'll have it covered!

At a young age, my grandmother found herself "in the family way" after taking up with my grandfather, Francis O'Donnell. The circumstances surrounding their relationship and the pregnancy caused a great scandal and in the end she was estranged from her family — and cut off from what would have been a sizeable inheritance.

I can't imagine what my grandmother suffered, for the choices she made as a young woman, but in the years to come her courage and great conviction came back into play, because it turned out my grandfather was an alcoholic, the same disease that would later haunt my father — only in Grandpop O'Donnell's case, sad to say, the battle didn't exactly go his way. The marriage didn't last, and my grandmother eventually found someone special — a wonderful stable man named John, who worked hard in a gas station and was utterly devoted to my grandmother. We called him Grandpop John, because in time he became more of a grandfather to us than Francis. In fact, later on, my grandmother's dying wish was to make sure my father would look after John once she was gone — and, as always, my father was true to his word. Grandpop John ended up moving in with my parents the last couple years of his life, and here again the takeaway for me was the importance of family.

There's one cherished memory that grew out of my grandmother's estrangement. My grandmother's siblings, for the most part, were fearful about keeping in touch with their sister because they did not want to go against their father's wishes. However, a couple of my father's aunts and uncles did on occasion secretly defy him to maintain a connection with my grandmom.

On one such occasion, my grandmom was having a family barbecue and her sister, my Great Aunt Urse, snuck around to take part. Not in the habit of showing up empty-handed to a gathering, she brought a plate of deviled eggs arranged on a blue Limoges plate. To Aunt Urse, the plate was an everyday plate, but to the rest of us, it was clearly a fine piece of china. Grandmom O'Donnell recognized it right away from her mother's china collection. At the end of the party, Aunt Urse left in haste, forgetting the plate. Grandmom thought about returning it — but the temptation to have something that belonged to her mother was just too great, so she kept it. A few days later, the plate took a place of honor up on my grandmother's wall. It was the only keepsake she had from her mother, so it meant a great deal to her. She proudly showed it to everyone who came by for a visit.

She would point to it up on the wall, and say cheekily, "That's my inheritance." Except, of course, when good ol' Aunt Urse came over. For her visits, the plate was temporarily removed.

Well, the story of my grandmother's prized blue plate did not end there, because after she and most of her siblings had passed, the provenance of the plate was thrown into question. At one point, one of my father's relatives reached out to him to see if he planned to challenge the estate. My father didn't want any of their money, he said. All he wanted was his Aunt Ursula's blue plate.

And so it was settled — and now the blue plate hangs proudly on my parents' living room wall.

* * *

I never really knew my paternal grandfather, Francis. He was out of the picture by the time I was born. He was a difficult character. He drank ... a lot. I share the broad details of his life with a heavy heart. He was my grandfather, after all, and it's difficult to cast a member of your own family in such a vulnerable light, but this was who he was. We do not lift or improve ourselves by ignoring the mistakes or missteps of others; rather, we must consider the bad paths they've taken or the turns they might have missed and weigh them against the roads that spread out before us. We don't do ourselves or our loved ones any favors by avoiding the truths of our lives, however ugly or heartbreaking those truths happen to be.

I only met my grandfather once. I was in fifth grade, and he was living down in Clearwater, Florida. My father hadn't been in touch with him for years, but out of the blue his father sent him a check for $1,000, as a kind of make-amends gesture. My dad recognized that check as the lonely, desperate cry that it was, so with his $1,000 he packed us six kids and my cousin Evelyn into a run-down passenger van we'd borrowed for the occasion, and we drove down to Florida for a family reunion he said was long overdue. Even as a kid, I saw this as a great lesson in forgiveness and turning the other cheek. I was old enough to understand the depths of my grandfather's mistreatment of his family, but here was my father, taking what for us was a lot of money and spending it on the man who'd showered so much abuse on him for so many years.

It was a beautiful moment of redemption, and a wonderful opportunity for us kids to see our father rise above his raw emotions to do the right thing, and set the right example. Even in retelling it, it still moves me.

Grandpop O'Donnell was thrilled to have us visit, and we kids were able to tune out all of the anger and anguish that had been built up over the years. To us, he was just a fun grandfather, and my father was happy to see us all getting along so well. In fact, things were going so well, from our little kid perspectives, that the night before we were due to leave we pleaded with our parents to take my grandfather back with us. He seemed so lonely down there in Clearwater, his days so dark and dismal; we all thought he could use a change of scenery. My parents, a bit reluctantly, agreed.

It was quite a frantic scene, as we got ready to leave early the next morning. It was barely daylight, and my mother had her hands full getting her six kids and her niece all packed and washed and into the car. I believe now that my grandfather had probably been up all night drinking, so in addition to worrying about us kids my mother had to wonder what he might do next, but somehow we got past the chaos and were ready to leave. The last thing my mother had us do, just before leaving, was to shuttle us each into the bathroom, so we wouldn't have to stop on the way. One-by-one, we took our turn and then headed out to the van.

I was the last — and by the time I stepped out of the bathroom everybody had gone. I thought they were all waiting for me in the van, so I raced outside, but the van was gone, too! It was a real Home Alone-type moment, back when Macaulay Culkin was just a baby!

Amazingly, surprisingly, I didn't panic.

They'd driven a couple miles before anyone figured out I was back in the apartment. Remember, this was before cell phones, so they couldn't call to tell me they were on their way. Before heading out, my mother, as usual, did a quick head count, and in the rush of the morning had simply forgotten that we also had my cousin Evelyn in tow, so when she got to six she left it at that, and now all they could do was race back to my grandfather's and hope against hope I hadn't gotten into any trouble.

My poor mother was absolutely mortified that she could leave me behind like that. To this day, she gets embarrassed when we tell this story, but I didn't see it as anything to be embarrassed about. I still don't. There was a lot going on that morning, that's all. There were a lot of kids to track, and my cousin Evelyn, and my ornery grandfather, and all of our stuff. It's a wonder they got out of there at all, with most of their kids — I count this to my mother's great credit.

Meanwhile, first thing I did, after assessing the situation, was plan my new life in Florida. I didn't know how long I'd be there on my own. So I searched my grandfather's kitchen cabinets, and saw a couple cans of tomato soup, so I figured I was covered in the food department. Then I went out back, and started exploring. It occurred to me I might need to find some way to make a living, so I gathered a bunch of stickygooks from the trees behind my grandfather's building. I don't know what these things are actually called, but I used to collect them with a friend of mine at Strawbridge Lake, near our house in New Jersey. We always knew them as stickygooks — brown pods, with a hard outer shell, filled with seeds and green sticky stuff. If you dry them out, you can shake them like maracas, so my idea was to decorate them and sell them, and if I couldn't find a market for them I told myself I'd at least have a nice collection going.

I was wearing a sundress, and I lifted the hem so the dress made a small basket in front of me, and gathered as many stickygooks as I could carry, and when my family pulled back up, I was out by the curb in front of my grandfather's building, trying to sell my wares to folks as they passed by.

I must have made quite a picture.

We've told that story into the ground in my family, and it always gets a good laugh at Sunday dinners, but we've never told it outside the safe harbor of our own family ... until now. I share it here for the way it stands as a precious family memory, but also for the gracenote it offers to this one extended visit with my grandfather. There were all kinds of lessons in it. Self-reliance wasn't meant to be one of them, but there it is alongside the all-important lessons of forgiveness, tolerance, empathy, and all that good stuff.

We didn't always get it right, in our family, but we made the effort.

* * *

I fared a bit better in the grandfather department with my grandpop Chillano, my mother's father. Actually, he was pretty great with us kids. My grandmom Chillano was a jewel all around. She was beautiful on the inside and the outside. She had ocean blue eyes and dark blond hair. Although she came from limited means, she was always dressed to the nines and had an amazing fashion sense. We were extremely close to them throughout my childhood, and both my grandmother and grandfather had as much of a role in shaping me and my worldview as anyone.

My grandpop was a hardworking man with a fascinating background. He was one of those cantakerous old men that you couldn't help but love. He was born in New Castle, Delaware, but moved to the rural outskirts of Philadelphia by the time he was an adolescent. Throughout his life he had several different careers, which meant he had an endless supply of stories to tell his grandchildren. He was a foreman for the railroad. He was an MP in the army during World War II. He was a cook. He worked as a taster in a local brewery — Ortlieb's, a onetime Philadelphia institution. He'd tell the story of how he once alerted his boss to a bad batch of beer that was nearly sent out into the marketplace. Apparently, my grandpop could taste that the yeast was about to turn, but he couldn't get anyone else to agree with him on this. They ran a bunch of tests, since discarding an entire batch would have cost the company a lot of money, but everything kept coming back fine. Finally, my grandfather's boss turned to him and said, "Pete, if you tell me it's a bad batch, it's a bad batch." Sure enough, within a week to ten days, the beer had soured and Grandpop was proven right. But this was almost beside the point. What mattered to my grandfather was that his boss believed in him, even when all the tests and all the other tasters didn't agree. He'd built up enough credibility and goodwill to be taken at his word, and this to him was a tremendous accomplishment.

And he always had a story or two he'd share to instill that same work ethic in us. The most memorable was a kind of parable about hard work and determination, centered on a bag of peanuts. He told it to us so often that years later it made its way into my campaign speeches. He used to sit us down and in his gruff voice he'd say, "Listen, no one is going to hand you a bag of peanuts. If you want a bag of peanuts, you have to earn it." Then he'd go on. "Instead of banging your head against the wall in frustration, you could work hard and earn enough money to buy two peanuts at the end of each day. Then, eat one peanut and put the other in a bag. The next day," he'd continue, "do the same thing." As he spoke, he'd raise his hand to his mouth as if he was eating a peanut. "Eat one," then gesturing as if to toss a peanut into a bag, "put one in a bag. And before you know it, you've earned yourself a bag of peanuts!"


Excerpted from Troublemaker by Christine O'Donnell. Copyright © 2011 Christine O'Donnell. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL was a candidate for U.S. Senate in Delaware, most recently in 2010 for the Senate seat vacated by Joe Biden. She's been dubbed the "Tea Party Darling", "Troublemaker" by Time and a leader of the "Second American Revolution" by the foreign press. She has appeared and continues to appear on and in a wide variety of media outlets, from Good Morning America to People, The Rush Limbaugh Show to Hannity and maintains a robust national speaking schedule. She lives in Delaware.

Christine O'Donnell was a candidate for U.S. Senate in Delaware, most recently in 2010 for the Senate seat vacated by Joe Biden. She's been dubbed the "Tea Party Darling," "Troublemaker" by Time and a leader of the "Second American Revolution" by the foreign press. She has appeared and continues to appear on and in a wide variety of media outlets, from Good Morning America to People, The Rush Limbaugh Show to Hannity and maintains a robust national speaking schedule. She lives in Delaware.

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Trouble Maker: Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
rcmoore More than 1 year ago
I feel this voice should be heard. Why? Because she adds to the conversation. Lets not drown her out because we might not disagree with her politics. She is interesting precisely because she is unconventional. She is the anti- Biden, or Obama, or Romney or Sharpton. She is young and fresh and we have a dearth of such voices in our "representative" democracy. If we want our youth to be represented, we need to give them a chance to speak. Maybe then they will get involved (beyond becoming a rock-throwing flash mob, as in Philadelphia or Liverpool). If they prove to be young, inexperienced, and not media-saavy, that is OK. They will learn. We already have enough slick career politicians representing us!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"trouble maker" is very hard to put down.it is a very indepth memoir by a tough minded lady who took on two big names and the mass media and yet won the support of the people and her primery for the united states senate.christine o donnell stands for the constitution and in this amazing book gives the frustrated voter a step by step guide on how they can make a difference in their elections.this will make a difference in the 2012 election as well as a great gift idea for friends and family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms O'Donnell has a fresh voice to add to the political landscape. When you are not part of the club, the club doesn't want to let you through the door. They'll actually do a lot of unethical, immoral things to keep you out. Interesting, easy read. Thoughtful, thought provoking, and inspiring to get involved in our government, starting on local levels to change the world we live in. I really hope the big boys haven't dicouraged Ms. O'Donnell. I hope we see more of her, weather in govetnment,or influencing politics.She has an infectious enthusiasm for American politics that is refreshing. Also, how is it some of these other people whom, you can tell by their comments obviously haven't read this book,are permitted to post, and rate this book. If you like this book, and recommend it, consider rating it 5 star,to counter balance these 1 stars people who haven't read it.Amazing they are so committed to continue to hate this person.I call that contempt prior to investigation. These people who commented without reading,really disappointing. Reading this book, not diappointing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't mean to sound disrespectful; but even though I know better than to really believe the media,I suppose going on what I'd seen on t.v, and other media, I did take an impression, and really didn't think I'd enjoy a book by this author. In the airport book store, out of curiosity I picked it up off the shelf,and started reading. I bought it for the flight, and am glad I did. I'm a democrat, and although we don't agree with many political views, I found we do agree on some things, and I at least understand through her thought out explanations how she has come to her beliefs, and political feelings.She comes off as a funny, and interesting person, who is pretty honest about her shortcomings, and I thought pretty open about her life too. Reading this book taught me an old lesson. Never judge a book by it's cover, or a person by the way they are portrayed in the media. I would recommend this book definitely
RebaMMJ More than 1 year ago
Christine's journey is a compelling account of how experiences shape ones character. She has chosen the very difficult path of a female conservative and is stalwart in her convictions. Her account of the barriers the so called elitist RINO and leftist politicians throw in her path is horrific. Shame on them! And congradulations to Christine and the other brave conservative women who prevail in politics today.
t-tommy More than 1 year ago
I picked the book up on Tuesday,and read it in one day.I hope she will tour the Chicago Suburbs,where I am sure she will be warmly received
Claudia-Delaware More than 1 year ago
This was the first "political" book that I have ever read. If there are other books like this, I will be reading a lot more of them! "Troublemaker" was a book that showed how a woman with strong convictions and a strong will pushed to get out the word of the Delaware people (and so many people across the nation) into the political realm. She got out there and talked to the people and learned that they wanted the same things that she did....."To Make America Great Again"! She pushed against the status quo of the entrenched Delaware Republican Party and brought their wrath down upon her. This did not deter her from trying to get the word out to her fellow Delawarians while listening all the smears and lies about her. In reading this book, she made me think about my own convictions. I read that she was saying all the things that I felt needed to be said and done to set our nation in the right direction. After reading Christine O'Donnell's book, I am determined to get more involved too. Thank you, Christine, for sharing your love of the Constitution and Bill of Rights with us! Thank you for fighting the hard fight against the entrenched Delaware Republican Party and (from what I see now) getting improvements made in it! Thank you for writting a book that was difficult to put down because it was so easy to read and held such truth and honesty! I highly recommend this book. It is a book that all Americans who feel the Constitution, Bill of Rights and our founding fathers' intentions for writing them have been subverted by the present Washington politicians!
ph300924 More than 1 year ago
Christine has the ability to have the reader read her book nonstop. Her life story is very interesting and her words came directly from her heart. A must read.
francescarter More than 1 year ago
Most people try to hide the fact that they are not perfect - especially politicians. Candidates are always trying to hide the skeletons in their closets. I found Christine's account of her own family trials with Alzheimer, breast cancer, and alcoholism refreshing. Forgiveness is a key theme in Troublemaker. The power of faith and forgiveness allows O'Donnell to embrace the problems in her family and cope with the betrayal of the entrenched RINOs. The left wing pundits will hate this book because family values drawn from the humility of her Catholic faith provide this woman on a mission to restore America's greatness with the character to rise above and lead by example.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Troublemaker" reads like a novel, a couragous woman fighting the established forces of both political parties and the power of the mainstream media wherein destruction and fear rule over the truth. Christine is Miss Smith goes to Washington, except here, in real life, she didn't. When Karl Rove, former close advisor to President Bush, repeated pointless and ridiculous myths on Fox and refused to support her, I lost all faith in him. Like the Delaware Republican party he would rather lose a seat in the Senate than see someone elected whom they did not annoint. It is not necessary to closly follow politics to enjoy this fast moving, easy to read book, whose story holds your interest as if it were fiction, but it is as real as the the sad state of the nation today. (I wonder, by the way, why a bookseller would print "reviews" by people who did not buy, let alone read her book.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lets do it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If u are bi go to res 5 plz
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazine. People that gave a negative rating, critize the author: those that gave a positive rating, rated the content.
DrDonnie More than 1 year ago
When REAL authors/writers have so much trouble getting published, this woman who walks out of interviews when asked questions about her own book gets published? Has it really come to this? Talk me down--has everything in this country been "dumbed down"?
peterMA More than 1 year ago
More evidence that people need to have a strong skill set, and qualifications for the positions for which they are applying.
Robyn_Harris More than 1 year ago
Republican fourth string Sarah Palin wannabee, Christine O'Donnell, tries unsuccessfully to extend her 15 minutes of shock and awfulness. Best used as garden mulch for plants you don't particularly like.