Last time, I wrote about Barbara Bush and Michelle Obama – learning how two dissimilar First Ladies, from different states, different races and different political parties, could yet have so much in common because they share the same basic values of love of family and love for country.
I so thoroughly enjoyed it that I decided I just have to keep searching out books by people who appear vastly different and compare them in my reviews.
My two choices for this column are “Two Paths: America Divided or United” by John Kasich, and “United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good” by Cory Booker.
From the titles, you will immediately sense the topic that both men address, but in very different ways. Booker’s “United” tells the stories of the people who shaped his life, while also sharing his beliefs about our nation. Kasich’s “Two Paths” is also a memoir of sorts, focusing on Kasich’s presidential campaign of 2016.
Kasich entered public office at age 23, when he was first elected to the Ohio Senate in 1979. From 1983 to 2001, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives and most recently, as Governor of Ohio from 2011 to 2019.
From almost the first page, Kasich’s arguments are compelling and his narrative straightforward. For example, he believes we are in a post-truth environment, in which we create our own narrative, putting frightening events completely out of our mind as though they never happened. “When we begin to accept this post-truth environment as the law of the land, we are well and truly doomed,” he says. “There is no path forward unless we are guided by the truth.”
Kasich also expresses concern about the coarseness and polarization of political discourse today, of which he was determined to have no part during the 2016 political campaign. “Because I refused to take the low road to the highest office in the land,” he writes.
In his book, Booker issues “a clarion call to our country: to find the common good, and to advance the common good by joining together in a common cause. Or, put simply, to be united.”
Booker’s path to public service began with serving as a city council member in Newark, N.J., where he later became Mayor from 2006 to 2013. Then he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he serves today.
Booker’s unusual first chapter, titled “A Conspiracy of Love,” lays out the groundwork for his argument that we are more alike than different.
He describes his father’s experience in the segregated South. Instead of dwelling on bitterness, he says his father recalled many people whose “acts of kindness, decency and love had enabled him to escape poverty and dislocation. He made it clear to me that I was – that we in this generation are – the physical manifestations of a conspiracy of love.”
Booker says his father taught him that small acts of kindness, done every day, are “the biggest thing you can offer on any given day is a small act of kindness.”
Love, kindness and decency permeate both men’s values. Kasich ends his book with “A Postscript: A Letter to My Daughters,” which I found profoundly touching. He urges them to action, and expresses the hope that, “together, maybe we can … reach for ways we might help unite our divided nation.”
Booker’s epilog is titled “Go Far Together.” He quotes an old African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together,” and urges unity.
“To meet our most daunting challenges, at home or abroad, we must come together, work together, and recognize that our nation will rise or fall together,” he says.
Love of family, love of country, and a call to unite our nation serve as the themes of both compelling, well-written books. This book fiend highly recommends both!