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Book Review of: Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics
by Congressman Hastert.
of Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics, an
outstanding book by Congressman and Coach Dennis Hastert. |
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, private citizen.
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:
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 public office.
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 so.
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.
About these reviews
You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?
I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?
And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.
This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.
My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.
A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.
About your reviewer
About reading style
No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.
Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.