"What if you set off on a vacation trip in search of history-and your destination was the men who had been president "Asking himself that tantalizing question, bestselling author and award-winning journalist Bob Greene embarked on a long journey across the breadth of the nation, hoping to spend time with Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Bush and Ronald Reagan. The result of his odyssey is Fraternity.
Best-selling author Greene (e.g., Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War) takes the reader on the ultimate road trip to visit the most select fraternity of all: America's past Presidents. During the 1980s and 1990s, Greene visited Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, and the accumulated wisdom and stories from his trips offer rare glimpses into the lives and thoughts of the Presidents. Nixon and Ford spent several hours alone with Greene, and the resulting chapters are gems, but he could only accompany Carter and Bush on their busy, distracted schedules. Ford is the most at ease with retirement. He still keeps in touch with his high school football teammates, prefers ice cream to martinis, and claims that his favorite movie is Mrs.Doubtfire. This exhilarating book concludes with a bittersweet coda in which the late President Reagan cancelled a public appearance where he was to meet Greene because of the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Highly recommended for public libraries.[See Q&A with Greene, p. 98.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 25, 2005
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Excerpt from Fraternity by Bob Greene
Here is what they said--some of it.
"I don't allow my feelings to be hurt," Richard Nixon said. "I learned very early on that you must not allow it to get to you. And as the years have gone on--and this used to infuriate my critics during the White House years--I made the decision not to respond, no matter how rough the attacks were."
I asked him about those two famous catchphrases--"Tricky Dick," and "Would you buy a used car from this man?" They had been thrown off so glibly, so routinely, for so many years by so many people who may have assumed that there was not really anyone on the receiving end, at least anyone who was listening. I wondered about the person who was, indeed, on the receiving end--Nixon himself. Had he ever heard the lines--the "Tricky Dick" and "used-car" lines?
"Oh, my, yes," Nixon said. "Yeah."
Were his feelings ever hurt?
"If I had feelings," Nixon said, "I probably wouldn't have even survived."
Here, along the journey, is what they said--some of it:
"I went to visit a middle school," Jimmy Carter said. "One of the bright young girls asked me why there's an old person who loses Social Security payments. I told her that couldn't happen--once you start drawing Social Security you don't lose it unless your income goes up.
"She said, 'No, my granddaddy doesn't make anything, and he lost his Social Security.' And I said, 'Sweetheart, you must be mistaken.' She said to me, 'Mr. Carter, you are mistaken.' She said, 'My granddaddy lives on the bridge over by the new domed stadium, and since he doesn't have a mailing address they cut off his Social Security.'"
Carter was talking about the mysteries of compassion--why the need to help others kicks in in some people's lives, and why others are able to walk away from the troubles of people who don't have enough--or at least are able to turn their heads, in the hopes of not seeing the troubles.
He said that the question from the girl in the middle school--the girl whose grandfather lived on the bridge--was not a question he would have heard in the schools of his own, more affluent, grandchildren, in their own, more prosperous, communities.
"I think most of us find it difficult to cross the barrier that we erect around ourselves," Carter said. "We prefer naturally to be among folks just like us, so we feel at home and we talk the same language, we wear the same clothes, drive the same kind of cars, go to the same kind of schools, live in the same neighborhoods, and we feel that that circle of friends won't put a burden on us.
"You know. They won't make us feel guilty. They won't make us feel obligated."
Here is some of what they said:
"We were out at a hotel in Hawaii," George Bush--the first President Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush--said. "Maui."