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From the famous to the infamous, from the virtuous to the notorious, from Thomas Jefferson to Madonna, historian Axelrod profiles key figures in American politics, arts, science, business, religion, and popular culture. The brief profiles are arranged alphabetically, about three to a page, and describe each person's major contributions. The book's scope begins centuries before there was a United States and continues through the 21st century. Without a timeline, chronology, or categories, the book will probably be more comfortable on general reader's coffee tables than in students' backpacks. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"Give me liberty or give me death. " "Houston, we have a problem. " "I did not have sexual relations with that woman. " American ears ring with these and hundreds of other declarations, spun out of history. Walt Whitman claimed to "hear America singing," but, mostly, we hear America talking. Out loud. This book features more than 300 quotations from influential Americans, including Benjamin Franklin, Muhammad Ali, George W. Bush, Paris Hilton, and many more! This book chronologically records the historical timeline of America-one voice at a time.
Well written history focuses on the twentieth century.
From the preface: "What you will find here is a collection of leadership lessons drawn from the public words of Franklin Roosevelt, beginning with his unsuccessful run for the vice presidency in 1920, moving through his terms as governor of New York, and across the entire of his presidency during an economic depression of depth and duration, and during a war of unheard-of and consequence."
[From the dust jacket: "We love to be inspired by true stories of men and women who rose to the historic occasion and made bold--though sometimes difficult and painful--decisions, acts of courage that history has judged to be high points of leadership and wisdom. That, indeed, was the great appeal of historian Alan Axelrod's previous book, Profiles in Audacity. Although we may be a bit more reluctant to admit it, we also love to hear about the decisions that--whether through character flaws or sheer bad luck--led to misfortune, disaster, or worse. In brief, fascinating, and instructive vignettes, Axelrod pinpoints more than thirty such instances of human folly. Some are dumb choices made by bone-headed people, some are evil edicts made by ruthless people, but most are gaffes by good, smart, and savvy people that nevertheless went miserably, abominably, and often irreversibly wrong. The unfortunate blunders range from as far back as the days of the Trojans and the wooden horse to the ongoing disaster of Hurricane Katrina. They occurred in spheres as diverse as politics, the military, business, and invention. Some of these cautionary tales lead us to wonder "what were they thinking?" (Ford Motor Company and the Edsel and Coca-Cola's introduction of the "New Coke") while others leave us deeply shaken (the overconfidence behind the Titanic tragedy and the bureaucratic complacency that led to the Space Shuttle disasters of 1986 and 2003). All of the fateful choices examined in Profiles in Folly--including George Armstrong Custer abandoning his own battle plan at the Little Bighorn and Thomas Edison's stand on the wrong side of technological development with his campaign against the efficiencies of alternating current--are rich with the obstinacy, willful ignorance, and plain stupidity invaluable as lessons we can all apply not only to our own lives, but also to selecting and judging those whom we choose to be our leaders. Profiles in Folly is rich with exquisite twists ranging from acerbic to horrific, and a valuable reminder of what fools we mortals can indeed be."
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