Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders & How They Changed America 1789-1989
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Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders & How They Changed America 1789-1989

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  495 ratings  ·  111 reviews
From the acclaimed bestselling author of "The Conquerors"Michael Beschloss has brought us a brilliantly readable and inspiring saga about crucial times in America's history when a courageous President dramatically changed the future of the United States.

With surprising new sources and a dazzling command of history and human character, Beschloss brings to life these flawed,...more
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2007)
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Richard Magahiz
Mar 29, 2013 Richard Magahiz rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of history
My review is for the abridged audiobook version read by the author. The author presents engaging profiles of nine American Presidents who persevered despite stiff opposition from either domestic or foreign adversaries (or both). He makes a special effort to show how the later executives were inspired or influenced by the example of earlier ones, giving the book a sense of unity despite the broad range of historical periods covered. I find his accounts to be mostly even-handed on the political sp...more
Shawn Thrasher
I became so annoyed with this book that I finally had to put it down. The short paragraphs were just too much. Maybe Mr. Beschloss thought he was on television, and needed to write the book as such, with neat little breathless soundbites. Maybe he thinks readers are stupid and have gnat-like attention spans,so our paragraphs need to be short. Maybe he likes one sentence paragraphs. Maybe his editor hates him, or us.

The chapters about George Washington are great. The one little tidbit about Marth...more
Robert A. Smith
This book surprised me. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the blurbs. But for some reason I feared it would be a shallow, light-weight read. Well I was wrong. Michael Beschloss has written an incredibly entertaining, richly-detailed history of six key presidents who served the nation in its first 200 years(1789-1989). Its the story of the slanders, insults and outright hatred they suffered while sticking to their guns and prevailing (often against popular opinion)while making risky decisions...more
Steve Lutz
Not all the stories truly demonstrate courage, and their inclusion seems arbitrary.

The writing style is annoying and a huge detriment to the material. He almost writes as if he's tweeting.

Every sentence seems to be a new paragraph.

And they're not always connected in a logical way.

For better presidential writing, turn to Gibbs and Duffy in The Presidents Club.
Kent
Beschloss gives readers of Presidential Courage real insights into the emotional and stressful world of national and international politics. I enjoy reading about leaders who faced difficult challenges and learning how they overcame their opposition to achieve significant impact on America and the world. There is much to learn from great leaders.

The book covers historical decisions made by nine American presidents - Washington, Adams, Jackson, Lincoln, T.R. Roosevelt, F.D. Roosevelt, Truman, Ken...more
E Wilson


I really liked this book. It makes me eager to read more books by Mr. Beschloss.

I'll admit my knowledge of American history is pretty much the sanitized school room version. The earliest presidents and to some extend even the more recent ones seem more like two dimensional characters instead of real people. So it was fascinating to read the details of how these presidents came to decisions that were difficult to make and sometimes contrary to their own previous beliefs.

I always thought our fo...more
William
Just finished reading "Presidential Courage" by Michael Beschloss.

Beschloss looks at a series of unpopular presidential decisions that made the U.S. stronger despite their controversy. To the average reader, some examples will be well known, such as emancipation under Lincoln, or obscure, like Jackson's opposition to the Bank of the United States.

This readable book can be a very nice follow-up to your average high school American history course, going deeper into controversial issues that are...more
Marty
I heard about this book on NPR (which actually sounds like the title to an NPR program itself), and I ordered it only a day or two later, because I knew it was just the type of book that I would love. And in principle, it was. Michael Beschloss gives a view into the office of the presidency during some pretty intense points of American history, and he does it as if he had been there; no small feat for a history writer. As good as it was, the last half of the book seemed to drag. I'm not sure if...more
Adam
The first few chapters Washington through Jackson were good examples of Presidents making unpopular decisions. Washington signing a trade tready with England was a wise move but unpopular with many Americans. Although the war of 1812 broke out somewhat over trade, I'm not sure if America could trade with any European nation at all if remained combatants with England. Jackson's epic struggle against a federalized banking system is told well, though not much I didn't already know it was a good syn...more
Jan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carl Brush
Michael Beschloss covers a lot of familiar ground in his own version of JFK’s Profiles in Courage, but Presidential Courage provides new views of the territory. From Washington’s defense of the John Jay treaty with Britain to Reagan’s conflicts with disarmament and SDI, Beschloss gets down into the seamy and distasteful combat, the raw struggles with their own ideas and character flaws that the presidents faced over the issues of their day.

Despite his venerated status, Washington was in danger...more
Ralph Hermansen
The book being reviewed is entitled "Presidential Courage" and the author is Michael Beschloss. This is the first book I have read by this author but it will not be my last. He has written several other books about American presidents and because of his skillful writing talent, I want to read several more of them. Many history books are dull and dry and the reader has to work to drudge through them. Of all the history books that I have read, this is one of the easiest and most compelling to read...more
William
Highly recommended. Great background info on 9 US Presidents (Washington, J. Adams, Jackson, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, JFK, and Reagan), and how they all risked their Presidency by making and sticking to controversial policy decisions. In addition, many fought personal bias or prejudice as well (Lincoln did not believe in equality of the races, Truman was a closet Anti-Semite, and JFK was not a supporter of Equal Rights until at least mid way through his term). Adams & Washington r...more
Gary Land
Beschloss has written a highly readable book that narrates the stories of nine presidents who exhibited courage in making controversial decisions. One might think that the opposition would have come from their rival political party, but in almost every case, beginning with Washington and the Jay Treaty, these presidents faced conflict within their own administrations. And, as with Truman and the issue of whether to recognize the new state of Israel, they sometimes had to struggle with their own...more
Ian Baaske
A nice look at the political chances a dozen or so presidents took, deciding that a principled stand on what was best for the country mattered more than their individual futures as politicians. In the cases of Truman and Kennedy, new information (journals and office recordings) bring to light new aspects of their presidencies. Some of the vignettes are stronger than others, but some had more courageous decisions to make than others. (Consider Lincoln who defied most instances of conventional wis...more
Samantha
I highly recommend this book to just about anyone. It is an interesting read that not only describles the Presidents' issues, opinions, & courageous stands, but makes the people come alive. You can picture Washington just wanting to go home to Mt Vernon, Lincoln crying that his best will never please everyone, Truman elated in doing what he feels is his part in fulfilling Biblical prophecy, and Kennedy dying before reaching his full potential. This is no dry, boring history book full of date...more
Rick
This was a great read. The most compelling part of the story is which examples of presidential courage that Beschloss chose to present. I expected that he would have included Jackson against the banks and Lincoln emancipating the slaves. The most compelling examples of Presidential courage was first, Truman's courage to recognize Israel as a State against the recommendations and council of his leadership team and the Cabinet. In the end Truman felt like his role was a fulfillment of prophecy. I...more
Rick Ludwig
Michael Beschloss writes history that relates historical individuals as real people facing real challenges. We see in this work how a number of presidents of very different ideologies and personalities deal with the unpopular issues of their presidencies in a human way. From Washington through Reagan, none of these gentleman have a free ride. The criticism are cruel and the stakes are high. Beschloss is less interested in the rightness or wrongness of their efforts, although most have a truly po...more
Danna
I loved this book for its premise and historical review, but not for its style. I learned things I hadn't known, for example, Truman had to fight his state department when he decided to recognize the newly- formed state of Israel, Kennedy courted the segregationist South in 1956 when campaigning to be Stevenson's running mate, and at least two decisions were made rather ignominiously, and in part, to spite the USSR.
The asterisked asides were not germaine and therefore served only to distract, an...more
Samantha
I had high expectations for this book. It let me down a little. It just wasn't that engaging. Some of it is very well known like JFK's battle with civil rights. I was looking for a good analysis on the different presidents and their actions. I didn't find that. I found that Mr. Beschloss just told about the different incident but didn't offer any new insight to it. I was hoping that he would even use them to give perspective on what is happening now but he didn't. I rated this book 3 stars becau...more
Julie Bell
I always really enjoy history. This was particularly nice because it was not voluminous - it focused on one issue for a handful of presidents. Taking a thorough look at the exhaustive activities of a president can be, well, exhaustive. Although it does not give an entire character review, it does highlight the president at their best. I loved how several of these presidents made decisions that were not popular, but were the correct choices for our country. At least in the moments displayed in th...more
Phillip
This was an easy, breezy read. I learned a lot more about Andrew Jackson, and I'm always amused at Washington's reactions when he was actually treated as a politician instead of a mythological war hero. I loved the chapters on Truman and T.R. I thought the FDR and Reagan chapters were a bit weaker -- in a book about "presidential courage" said courage should not be "wanting to be re-elected" as it was in FDR's case. I think the larger point about FDR was his recognition of the threat of Hitler,...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Over the past two decades, Michael Beschloss has become one of our most popular and prolific historians, recognizable from his many television appearances and bankable in the mold of David McCullough, Stephen Ambrose, Douglas Brinkley, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Previous books include Taking Charge (1997), an examination of LBJ's White House tapes, and The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany (2002). Critics are not as kind to Presidential Courage as to the author

...more
Quinn Wright
When I picked this up I was assuming I was going to be reading a standard piece of fluffy presidential history where the author highlights all the basics from a bunch of presidents, with nothing that I don't already know, and lots of lame half ass lines about political courage. I was very pleasantly surprised to find this work not only extraordinarily well researched, but very professionally executed by a master historian. Beschloss does an outstanding job of maintaining his academic focus, whil...more
Adam West
Not a captivating book, but definately really interesting. I was introduced to it by my Executive Branch professor in college. The idea in this book is something I wish more Americans could understand and appreciate. That all of our presidents have faced difficult decisions, and some have had to make extremely unpopular decisions in the best interest of the nation. Can imagine Washington being cursed and told he was an evil, selfish, and incompetent man after all he had done during the Revolutio...more
Karen
This was a book about times when our presidents have had to make tough decisions that helped shape our country despite the general publics' disapproval. I thought the book was interesting, yet a little one-sided in ways. The author often acted as though the president was always the smartest one in the nation and should ignore the constituents beliefs because of ignorance. Also, he made issues a little black and white, when in reality, the majority are somewhere in between. Perhaps I read into hi...more
Eric MacDonald
Michael Beschloss has written a readable look at how a variety of Presidents throughout American history have taken difficult positions, often contrary to popular opinion or political expediency, and how these decisions shaped our country. While somewhat predictable in his choices, I found the more recent Presidential descriptions, such as Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan, most interesting. I've not been a big fan of Kennedy, but found that chapter particularly interesting. The descriptions of the ti...more
Cole
A decent summary of various unpopular actions undertaken by presidents in the face of popular opinion. Some of these examples are ones we've all heard about before such as Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation or FDR and supporting England during the start of WW2, while others are less well known, such as Jackson's struggle to end the Bank of the United States and its undue influence in politics.
Not particularly well written, but each segment is short, can be read quickly, and very informative so i...more
Daniel
Sep 20, 2007 Daniel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody who likes history and America
This book provides an excellent glimpse at hard times in America, times when the poor were starving, when war was imminent, and through hard times the tough get going, the tough presidents that is. From Washington to Reagen, they demonstrate what it is to make decisions for your country that may be unpopular, but you yourself believe it is the right thing. After reading this book it made me revere Washington like a God (seriously this guy's a straight up pimp) and come to appreciate presidents l...more
Matt
"I have a feeling this will make me feel better during this ugly ugly mess of an election year."

And it kinda did.

Beschloss writes in a smooth narrative style peppered with direct quotes from primary sources, which made for a very good, entertaining read. By focusing on specific events in specific presidencies (Jay's Treaty for Washington, the 1940 election for FDR, desegregation of higher education for JFK, among others), he tells definite stories to illustrate Presidents that risked their caree...more
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