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Moyers on Democracy [Paperback]

Bill Moyers

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Book Description

5 May 2009
People know Bill Moyers from his many years of path-breaking journalism on television. But he is also one of America's most sought-after public speakers. In this collection of speeches, Moyers celebrates the promise of American democracy and offers a passionate defense of its principles of fairness and justice. Moyers on Democracy takes on crucial issues such as economic inequality, our broken electoral process, our weakened independent press, and the despoiling of the earth we share as our common gift.

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reminder of the best qualities of America 15 May 2008
By Theodore A. Rushton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One of the great qualities of America is its conscience, sometimes known as that quiet but reasoned internal voice which arises when one is otherwise having a great time.

Moyers is an eloquent voice of that conscience, a clear and positive contrast to narcissist negative nagging typified by Rush Limbaugh. Nags are always pessimistic; conscience encourges one to be better. In the best of times, as in the worst of times, Americans share an optimism they can improve themselves and their society.

Nags have a purpose, if you like "boss others around" attitudes.

Conscience is a small quiet voice of personal responsibility, challenge and constructive incentives. America is a land of boundless excess; after the ruin of the Civil War, it took only 40 years to become the world's richest and most powerful nation. Andrew Carnegie typified the success of excess; he created a dynamic modern steel industry, then the world's finest public library system.

Moyers made his early contributions in politics. Instead of acquiring a personal fortune, he became a founder of the Peace Corps, one of the lasting elements of American compassion. He then turned to "the library function", providing people with information.

Unlike the compulsive nature of moral nags, no one is forced to read a book and no one is forced to listen to Moyers. Instead, the strength of both is intelligent acceptance by the community. Don't be put off by the cover photo of Moyers; he looks like a nag, but he reads like an inspiration.

This book offers some of the best of Moyers over the past 20 years. It is a collection of gems to remind us the best qualities of America are not the politics of bitterness, the greed of selfishness or the pessimism of dismal doom.

Would America be better without Limbaugh? Perhaps not.

It is better because of Moyers. The greatness of America is its diversity of ideas. Moyers offers some of the best, and this book is a reminder of the success of decency in a world that sometimes seems to be utterly mad, selfish and foolish.
60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Take Bill Moyers Stirred and Chilled 6 May 2008
By Robert Kall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I've been lucky to hear Bill Moyers give three speeches live and every time, he reliably stirs my emotions and gives me the chills. The amazing thing is he's talking about democracy, freedom, and justice, while weaving in history and discussion of the way the media should work.

Whenever a new Bill Moyers speech transcript becomes available, it's required reading. So this book is a real gem, pulling them together.

What you will discover is Bill Moyers is brilliant at weaving together stories of real people with history, occasionally mythology and the most important issues of our time.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius 14 May 2008
By P. Orosco - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have had the opportunity to listen to some of these speeches on the Democracy Now telecast/radio show (best news there is IMHO). Bill Moyers is the most genuine patriot of our time. His speeches challenge America to fight off the 'Great Simplifiers' and take a deeper look not only at our current situation, but also at our past and future. Simply brilliant in its inspiration.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt take on the excesses and shortcomings of American democracy (3.5*s) 26 Jun 2008
By J. Grattan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In this collection of 28 speeches given at conferences, award dinners, anniversaries of various organizations or events, eulogies, etc, Moyers comments on the state of American democracy, or the ability of ordinary citizens to participate, to be empowered. His standard for comparison is largely the concept of democracy formalized in the Constitution and his take on the broad equality of colonial times, ignoring of course that political participation was confined to propertied white men - a distinct minority. He does note that some of us were regarded as 3/5 of a person for apportioning representation.

In these series of lectures, Moyers repeats such themes as growing income and wealth disparities and the subsequent disproportionate influence in government, lack of health care for millions, lack of access to education and the consequent ignorance of our past, the unwillingness of the mass media to report forthrightly and fully on current realities, and more broadly the lack of community interaction and the idea of a shared destiny. He is most assuredly correct to note that shopping has replaced democracy in America.

The problem with these types of anthologies is the repetition and the lack of elaboration and development of a broader critique and understanding. For example, the very idea of democracy is highly nebulous. Does the colonial society of rural, subsistence farmers have a lot of relevance to an integrated, industrial urban society? The labor movement, Populists, and the socialists starting fighting big-money interests at least 125 years ago with only marginal successes along the way. The lack of democracy, whatever that may be, seems to be inherent in the American system.

Beyond a lament for a vague notion of democracy that has probably never existed, there are no real proposals for defining and/or establishing a democracy in our world. The biggest concern seems to be getting private money out of the political process, but that leaves so many questions and problems. Are mega-corporations compatible with democracy? What happens to empowerment when a person steps through a corporate door in the morning? Does he propose works councils in businesses? Or employee ownership? Does he propose a wholesale revamping of election processes - perhaps even random selection, like juries? Moyer is completely disingenuous when it comes to a free press. He acknowledges that profits trump reporting, but conveniently ignores the major function of corporate-run media to continually defend the economic and social status quo, which of course requires the suppression of radical employees and their work. It goes without saying that media companies won't fully and truthfully report on any social or economic issue that may infringe on the prerogatives of the rich.

Moyers is a good guy. His is a welcome voice in the midst of corporate and right-wing ideologues. He is best when commenting on excesses and shortcomings of those in power - of which there are many examples. But his ideas are not really transforming. He is not an advocate of radicalism, which the implementation of democracy most definitely would be.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Voice 22 May 2008
By Robert N. Sanders - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I enthusiastically nominate "Moyers On Democracy" as an outstanding book for 2008. This book laid a hasty hand on my cynicism about government in the introduction when he wrote that books like this one are viewed with suspicion by media moguls. They have "decided that uncovering the inner workings of public and private power is boring and will drive viewers and readers away to greener pastures of pablum." You've got me, Bill! So I began to read. And he didn't disappoint. If there is any book that will focus a fierce searchlight on the deals related to all the political battles and scandals that are engaging us in this present time then this is one.

Each of his essays and speeches begins with insightful musings and personal reflections from his years growing up in Texas with a father who was a devotee of FDR, continue with his flirtations with ministry, describe his time with Lyndon Johnson as senator and president, include his forage into the Peace Corps, embrace his years as publisher and news analyst and crown his career as producer of public television's groundbreaking series such as "The Power of Myth" with Joseph Campbell.

Here we have potent examples of both the breadth of his interest and the depth of his probing analysis of the issues of democracy. For example, no other journalist, to my knowledge, has had the audacious courage (or maybe foolhardiness!) to give a lecture at the United States Military Academy that quotes James Madison's words, "In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war and peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department," then goes on to say, "Twice in forty years we have now gone to war paying only lip service to those warnings; the first war was lost, the second is a bloody debacle, and both rank among the great blunders in our history. It is impossible for soldiers to sustain in the field what cannot be justified in the Constitution; asking them to do so puts America at war with itself. So when the vice president of the United States says it doesn't matter what the people think, he and the president intend to prosecute the war anyway, he is committing heresy against the fundamental tenets of the American political order." Yet, even then, he concludes by saying to the graduating class, "I salute your dedication to America and I wish all of you good luck."

His eulogies for Lady Bird Johnson, Bill Coffin, Barbara Jordan and Fred Friendly provide a rare glimpse into his heart and reveal the genuine compassion of a sensitive and thoughtful human being. I was moved by simply reading them.

Still, for me, I have found his lectures on "Money and Politics" and "The Fight For Public Broadcasting" representative of the best journalism being practiced today. With the rare skill honed by his years of investigative prowess he describes Bush's Washington. Jack Abramoff's ties to Karl Rove and bribery and the scandals of Tom Delay's money laundering are described with honesty as well as the finesse of this seasoned journalist. Yet, his speech to the National Conference for Media Reform in which he recounts the saga of the attempted coup of public broadcasting by Bush's administration is the most gripping and convincing of anything else in this book. The speech is spiced with the tale of those who want "to squelch and punish journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable." He asserts, "They are the apologists for the people in power. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle-class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war started under false pretenses. I mean the people who turn faith-based initiatives into a slush fund and encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who would discredit dissent and present their ideology as the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy." He sets his scathing words down again for an administration that has refused to listen. Bush has bragged that he doesn't read newspapers. I doubt that he will read this book but he would profit from it if he would read and heed. Read this book. "Moyers On Democracy" is a must!!!
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