of Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics, an
outstanding book by Congressman and Coach Dennis Hastert. |
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola,
I have an autographed copy of this book--Speaker
Hastert signed it for me in a Kansas bookstore. As the Speaker is next
in line after the Vice President to be President if--God
forbid--something should happen to the President or Vice President,
Speaker Hastert holds the third highest position in the federal
government. I want to personally thank Jack DeWolfe and the others in
the Speaker's security detail for letting us have time to talk.
Speaker Hastert and I grew up a short ride from
each other (two of my cousins grew up just minutes from his childhood
home). We were both wrestlers at one time in school. But, those are not
the reasons why I like him so much.
Congressman Hastert is, unlike many of his peers,
a man of integrity. He's also got a great deal of common sense and no
delusions about himself. You can't help but respect him, and I would
respect him if he were still working on a feed truck in a small Illinois
town rather than holding the third highest position on Capitol Hill. He
is that kind of man.
Talking to "Denny" (as he prefers to be
called), you understand a few important things about the man:
- He's humble.
- He knows what he believes and why.
- He does not make excuses.
So, what about this book? Well, it's a very hard
book to put down. You find yourself glancing at the clock and saying,
"OK, just one more page."
Denny is candid and honest. Unlike Bill Clinton,
he did not write a bloated, self-aggrandizing tome of excuses for
failure and try to make it sound like success. Instead, he speaks from
the heart and engages you. Oddly, though the book is about him, it isn't
about him. And neither is the way he's conducted himself in
He did not write an advertisement for the
Republican Party or try to lay a foundation for a future Presidential
bid. Instead, he gives credit where credit is due (regardless of party).
He also tells you some of the negative--but he does so in a civil, calm,
dignified way. He does not resort to name-calling or histrionics. He
lays out the facts and lets you be the judge. As a reader, I like that.
He did not write an embarrassing book like Al
Gore's "Earth in the Balance." This is not a book that the
author will later wish he could get people not to read. It is a book
that he can be proud of, and it's one that will probably be read and
recommended decades after he's gone.
Denny starts out by telling us where he came from.
No silver spoons in his background. He knows the value of work, and he
knows nothing is free--which explains his political philosophies. His
entering politics was almost accidental, as was his rise to Speaker. He
had no aspirations or grand plan to get there. Things just kind of
turned out that way, and he took the opportunities as they came along.
Which turned out to be very, very good for the rest of us.
The book provides a fascinating view into the
inner workings of government at the state and federal levels. In this
book, you'll find information you won't find in the biased media such as
our newspapers and television (which, by the way, are undergoing huge
losses of audience because of that bias--mainstream America is sick of
it). Denny is amazingly unbiased and fair, which is refreshing in this
age of bias and blame.
You'll see an insider's view of what it's like to
deal with the dirty tricks played by the various bipartisan politicians,
and Denny makes it clear that there are good and honorable people in
both major parties. But you'll also see why our Congress and Senate have
(in my opinion) been such abject failures for the past half century or
On the upside, you'll see where there's new hope.
In fact, in the last six or so years our Congress and Senate have
departed from their previous "let's fail to do what we were elected
to do" modus operandi--they have actually done some good. That
hasn't been because there are now more Republicans than Democrats. No,
something else is at work there and Denny explains what it is.
Anyone who wants a good understanding of how
government works should read this book. If you pay taxes, you should
consider this a "must read"--taxes are the single largest
expense for nearly every citizen and this book helps you understand how
that money is spent (or misspent). Denny was a high school history
teacher at one time, so he knows his stuff from that angle as well as
from being intimately involved in the legislative process.
Had I not met Denny, I probably would not have bought a book by
"yet another politician." But, that's just it. He isn't just
another politician. And this is no ordinary book.