By: Terry Golway
Penguin presents a series of six portable, accessible, and—above all—essential reads from American political history, selected by leading scholars. Series editor Richard Beeman, author of The Penguin Guide to the U.S. Constitution, draws together the great texts of American civic life to create a timely and informative mini-library of perennially vital issues. These slim volumes will serve as a powerful and illuminating resource for scholars, students, and civic-minded citizens.
American Political Speeches includes the best American rhetoric from inside and outside the White House. Some of the greatest words spoken in American history have come from men and women who lacked the biggest bully pulpit in the country, but who nevertheless were able to move the nation with words. Frederick Douglass explained the irony of Independence Day from the perspective of a slave. Martin Luther King, Jr. described his dream of an interracial America. William Jennings Bryan gave voice to social discontent with a single phrase, “a cross of gold.” Barbara Jordan summoned the nation”s outrage during the impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon. And the best presidents, not by coincidence, have tended to be those with an appreciation for the use of language: Lincoln explaining a new birth of freedom at Gettysburg; John Kennedy voicing moral outrage at the Berlin Wall; Franklin D. Roosevelt chatting to a nation gathered in front of radios; Ronald Reagan addressing Congress freshly healed from an assassination attempt.