BOOK REVIEWS

Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom – Condoleezza Rice (2017)

riceThe Puritan, John Winthrop spoke of America as “the city on a hill” as he gazed upon the shores of his new home from the confines of his ship, the Arbella. President Ronald Reagan inspired freedom lovers around the world as he too spoke in glowing terms of this “city on a hill.” Winthrop and Reagan captured the very heartbeat of every human being with that phrase as they echoed the cry for freedom – a freedom which is made possible by democracy.

Former Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice paints a beautiful portrait of freedom in her most recent book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom. Rice explores the early foundations of American democracy by providing a basic framework for freedom.

Most of the book is devoted to telling stories about the hope of democracy in countries like the Russian Federation, Columbia, Poland, Kenya, and the Middle East. Readers will not be surprised to learn that while democracy is on the rise in the world, the promise of democracy is usually a long path and is usually accompanied by pain and bloodshed. Some nations like Germany and Japan are “stabilizing forces for good.” But other nations like Russian and China “seem determined to disrupt the global order.”

Dr. Rice makes full use of her experience as Secretary of State by sharing stories about her role in helping various nations move forward in their quest for democracy. Readers will quickly note that Secretary Rice has a passion for freedom and is quick to defend the downtrodden. Rice adds, “Giving voice to the voiceless is a moral cause for a country – America that is based on an idea: that human freedom is the source of human dignity and progress. That cannot be true for us and not for them.

Democracy by Condoleeza Rice is a book for every American. Liberals and conservatives alike should digest this book and be reminded of the great price of freedom:

“The United States has been a north star for those seeking liberty not because it is perfect, but because it was born imperfect and is still struggling with imperfection. That has always been the best argument for America’s example – and America’s engagement. We are living proof that the work of democracy is never done. For those who are just starting – stumbling, and starting again – that is reassuring and inspiring. And it is reason to be a voice for them as they struggle in their freedom – just as we do – to chart a better future.”

Dr. Rice tells about the time she visited the home of Lech Wałęsa in Gdańsk, Poland. One hundred thousand Polish workers were waving flags and shouting, “Bush, Bush, Bush … Freedom, Freedom, Freedom.” Rice turned to her colleague as said, “This is not exactly what Karl Marx meant when he said, ‘Workers of the world unite.”

So the atheistic worldview of Karl Marx is relegated to the ash heap of history. And the city on a hill shines brightly, still. However, there are still forces that loom large and cast a dark shadow on our liberty. Democracy is a celebration of our liberty and a vivid reminder of the freedom we enjoy as Americans.

Highly recommended!

WWII

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan (2016)

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Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard, Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016, 284 pp. $18.00

Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard continue to mesmerize their reading audience with a new title in the ever-popular “killing series.” Unlike the other killing books which focused on specific individuals, O’Reilly and Dugard focus on a critical juncture in American history, a point where indecisive leadership or a policy of appeasement would have not only changed the face of America; it would have charted a new and tragic course in the history of the world.

Killing the Rising Sun explores the roles of a handful of American icons who faced a ruthless enemy, namely, the Imperial Japanese Army. Most Americans, it seems, simply do not know this story. They certainly do not understand the vicious nature of the enemy and the threat that the empire of Japan posed and the horrible consequences of defeat. Thankfully, under the leadership of FDR and Truman, America prevailed and effectively ended a 2,500-year-old dynasty.

A few features of this book are worth noting. First, the authors tell a fascinating story which is rooted in historical reality. One of the reasons that modern-day students recoil at the prospect of studying history is that many teachers and books are just plain boring. This is where O’Reilly and Dugard shine the brightest. They have an uncanny ability of weaving in the pertinent historical detail and simultaneously keeping the attention of readers. This feature runs through the other killing books and has proven to be a mighty boon for readers who might otherwise turn away from reading about history.

Second, the authors paint clear portraits of the key players during this period of history. They show the steadfastness of FDR, the bold resolve of Truman, and the courage of General MacArthur. But they also show the evil nature of the Japanese leader, Hirohito. Here is a man who portrayed himself as a “god-man” to the Japanese people, and in the final analysis, led them to the point of no return, which resulted in a decisive and historical defeat.

Finally, the authors help readers understand the importance of freedom; the priceless reality that Americans enjoy. We live in a country where the gift of freedom is taken for granted and even scoffed at by some social progressives. Killing the Rising Sun is a stark reminder of the sacrifice, bravery, and devotion of the American soldier. While much of the attention is focused on Truman and MacArthur, the real hero is the valiant American military man. Many of these brave soldiers paid the ultimate price of death. Some of them survived and bore the pain, either physically or emotionally which is associated with war. Now each American is the beneficiary of their devoted service. May we cherish the freedom we enjoy as American citizens and pay homage to those who went before us. They killed the rising sun. The world is a better place because of them.