The acclaimed novelist conducts a personal exploration of ""conventional wisdom"" to determine what government really does and how it functions, ranging from the federal deficit and crime to acid rain and national defense.
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William J. Bennett served as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H. W. Bush and as Secretary of Education and Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Reagan. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Williams College, a doctorate in political philosophy from the University of Texas, and a law degree from Harvard. He is the author of such bestselling books as The Educated Child, The Death of Outrage, The Book of Virtues, and the two-volume series America: The Last Best Hope. Dr. Bennett is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show Bill Bennett's Morning in America. He is also the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute and a regular contributor to CNN. He, his wife, Elayne, and their two sons, John and Joseph, live in Maryland.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Try, Try Again
'Tis a lesson you should heed,
Try, try again;
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try again;
Then your courage should appear,
For, if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear;
Try, try again.
Stick-to-it-iveness has a lot to do with getting the right answers in math, English, history, and life.
The fisher who draws in his net too soon,
Won't have any fish to sell;
The child who shuts up his book too soon,
Won't learn any lessons well.
If you would have your learning stay,
Be patient -- don't learn too fast;
The man who travels a mile each day,
May get round the world at last.
It Can Be Done
Brave people think things through and ask, "Is this the best way to do this?" Cowards, on the other hand, always say, "It can't be done."
The man who misses all the fun
Is he who says, "It can't be done."
In solemn pride he stands aloof
And greets each venture with reproof.
Had he the power he'd efface
The history of the human race;
We'd have no radio or motor cars,
No streets lit by electric stars;
No telegraph nor telephone,
We'd linger in the age of stone.
The world would sleep if things were run
By men who say, "It can't be done."
The Little Hero of Holland
Adapted from Etta Austin Blaisdell and Mary Frances Blaisdell
Here is the true story of a brave heart, one willing to hold on as long as it takes to get the job done.
Holland is a country where much of the land lies below sea level. Only great walls called dikes keep the North Sea from rushing in and flooding the land. For centuries the people of Holland have worked to keep the walls strong so that their country will be safe and dry. Even the little children know the dikes must be watched every moment, and that a hole no larger than your finger can be a very dangerous thing.
Many years ago there lived in Holland a boy named Peter. Peter's father was one of the men who tended the gates in the dikes, called sluices. He opened and closed the sluices so that ships could pass out of Holland's canals into the great sea.
One afternoon in the early fall, when Peter was eight years old, his mother called him from his play. "Come, Peter," she said. "I want you to go across the dike and take these cakes to your friend, the blind man. If you go quickly, and do not stop to play, you will be home again before dark."
The little boy was glad to go on such an errand, and started off with a light heart. He stayed with the poor blind man a little while to tell him about his walk along the dike and about the sun and the flowers and the ships far out at sea. Then he remembered his mother's wish that he should return before dark and, bidding his friend goodbye, he set out for home.
As he walked beside the canal, he noticed how the rains had swollen the waters, and how they beat against the side of the dike, and he thought of his father's gates.
"I am glad they are so strong," he said to himself. "If they gave way what would become of us? These pretty fields would be covered with water. Father always calls them the 'angry waters.' I suppose he thinks they are angry at him for keeping them out so long."
As he walked along he sometimes stopped to pick the pretty blue flowers that grew beside the road, or to listen to the rabbits' soft tread as they rustled through the grass. But oftener he smiled as he thought of his visit to the poor blind man who had so few pleasures and was always so glad to see him.
Suddenly he noticed that the sun was setting, and that it was growing dark. "Mother will be watching for me," he thought, and he began to run toward home.
Just then he heard a noise. It was the sound of trickling water! He stopped and looked down. There was a small hole in the dike, through which a tiny stream was flowing.
Any child in Holland is frightened at the thought of a leak in the dike.
Peter understood the danger at once. If the water ran through a little hole it would soon make a larger one, and the whole country would be flooded. In a moment he saw what he must do. Throwing away his flowers, he climbed down the side of the dike and thrust his finger into the tiny hole.
The flowing of the water was stopped!
"Oho!" he said to himself. "The angry waters must stay back now. I can keep them back with my finger. Holland shall not be drowned while I am here."
This was all very well at first, but it soon grew dark and cold. The little fellow shouted and screamed. "Come here; come here," he called. But no one heard him; no one came to help him.
It grew still colder, and his arm ached, and began to grow stiff and numb. He shouted again, "Will no one come? Mother! Mother!"
But his mother had looked anxiously along the dike road many times since sunset for her little boy, and now she had closed and locked the cottage door, thinking that Peter was spending the night with his blind friend, and that she would scold him in the morning for staying away from home without her permission.
Peter tried to whistle, but his teeth chattered with the cold. He thought of his brother and sister in their warm beds, and of his dear father and mother. "I must not let them be drowned," he thought. "I must stay here until someone comes, if I have to stay all night."
The moon and stars looked down on the child crouching on a stone on the side of the dike. His head was bent, and his eyes were closed, but he was not asleep, for every now and then he rubbed the hand that was holding back the angry sea.
"I'll stand it somehow," he thought. So he stayed there all night keeping the water out.
Early the next morning a man going to work thought he heard a groan as he walked along the top of the dike. Looking over the edge, he saw a child clinging to the side of the great wall.
"What's the matter?" he called. "Are you hurt?"
"I'm keeping the water back!" Peter yelled. "Tell them to come quickly!"
The alarm was spread. People came running with shovels, and the hole was soon mended.
They carried Peter home to his parents, and before long the whole town knew how he had saved their lives that night. To this day, they have never forgotten the brave little hero of Holland.
The Tortoise and the Hare
We win many of life's rewards by learning how to hang in there and work till the very end.
A hare once made fun of a tortoise. "What a slow way you have!" he said. "How you creep along!'
"Do I?" said the tortoise. "Try a race with me and I'll beat you."
"What a boaster you are," said the hare. "But come! I will race with you. Whom shall we ask to mark off the finish line and see that the race is fair?"
"Let us ask the fox," said the tortoise.
The fox was very wise and fair. He showed them where they were to start, and how far they were to run.
The tortoise lost no time. He started out at once and jogged straight on.
The hare leaped along swiftly for a few minutes till he had left the tortoise far behind. He knew he could reach the mark very quickly, so he lay down by the road under a shady tree and took a nap.
By and by he awoke and remembered the race. He sprang up and ran as fast as he could. But when he reached the mark the tortoise was already there!
"Slow and steady wins the race," said the fox.
The Stars in the Sky
Adapted from Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, Kate Douglas Wiggin, and Nora Archibald Smith
This old English tale reminds us that the higher we reach, the longer and harder we have to try.
Once upon a time there was a little lass who wanted nothing more than to touch the stars in the sky. On clear, moonless nights she would lean out her bedroom window, gazing up at the thousand tiny lights scattered across the heavens, wondering what it would be like to hold one in her hand.
One warm summer evening, a night when the Milky Way shone more brightly than ever before, she decided she couldn't stand it any longer -- she just had to touch a star or two, no matter what. So she slipped out the window and started off by herself to see if she could reach them.
She walked a long, long time, and then farther still, until she came to a mill wheel, creaking and grinding away.
"Good evening," she said to the mill wheel. "I would like to play with the stars in the sky. Have you seen any near here?"
"Ah, yes," groaned the old mill wheel. "Every night they shine in my face from the surface of this pond until I cannot sleep. Jump in, my lass, and you will find them."
The little girl jumped into the pond and swam around until her arms were so tired she could swim no longer, but she could not find any stars.
"Excuse me," she called to the old mill wheel, "but I don't believe there are any stars here after all!"
"Well, there certainly were before you jumped in and stirred the water up," the mill wheel called back. So she climbed out and dried herself off as best she could, and set out again across the fields.
After a while she sat down to rest in a meadow, and it must have been a fairy meadow, because before she knew it a hundred little fairies came scampering out to dance on the grass.
"Good evening, Little Folk," said the girl. "I'm trying to reach the stars in the sky. Have you seen any near here?"
"Ah, yes," sang the fairies. "They glisten every night among the blades of grass. Come and dance with us, little lass, and you will find as many stars as you like."
So the child danced and danced, she whirled round and round in a ring with the Little Folk, but though the grass gleamed beneath her feet, she never spied a single star. Finally she could dance no longer, and she plopped down inside the ring of fairies.
"I've tried and I've tried, but I can't seem to reach the stars down here," she cried. "If you don't help me, I'll never find any to play with."
The fairies all whispered together. Finally one of them crept up and took her by the hand, and said: "If you're really determined, you must go forward. Keep going forward, and mind you take the right road. Ask Four Feet to carry you to No Feet At All, and then tell No Feet At All to carry you to the Stairs Without Steps, and if you climb that --"
So the little girl set out again with a light heart, and by and by she came to a horse, tied to a tree.
"Good evening," she said. "I'm trying to reach the stars in the sky, and I've come so far my bones are aching. Will you give me a ride?"
"I don't know anything about stars in the sky," the horse replied. "I'm here only to do the bidding of the Little Folk."
"But I come from the Little Folk, and they said to tell Four Feet to carry me to No Feet At All."
"Four Feet? That's me!" the horse whinnied. "Jump up and ride with me."
They rode and they rode and they rode, till they rode out of the forest and found themselves at the edge of the sea.
"I've brought you to the end of the land, and that's as much as Four Feet can do," said the horse. "Now I must get home to my own folk."
So the little girl slid down and walked along the sea, wondering what in the world she would do next, until suddenly the biggest fish she'd ever seen came swimming up to her feet.
"Good evening," she said to the fish. "I'm trying to reach the stars in the sky. Can you help me?"
"I'm afraid I can't," gurgled the fish, "unless, of course, you bring me word from the Little Folk."
"But I do," she cried. "They said Four Feet would bring me to No Feet At All, and then No Feet At All would carry me to the Stairs Without Steps."
"Ah, well," said the fish, "that's all right then. Get on my back and hold on tight."
And off he went -- kerplash! -- into the water, swimming along a silver path that glistened on the surface and seemed to stretch toward the end of the sea, where the water met the sky. There, in the distance, the little girl saw a beautiful rainbow rising out of the ocean and into the heavens, shining with all the colors.
At last they came to the foot of it, and she saw the rainbow was really a broad bright road, sloping up and away into the sky, and at the far, far end of it she could see wee shining things dancing about.
"I can go no farther," said the fish. "Here are the Stairs Without Steps. Climb up, if you can, but hold on tight. These stairs were never meant for little lassies' feet, you know." So the little girl jumped off No Feet's back, and off he splashed through the water.
She climbed and she climbed and she climbed up the rainbow. It wasn't easy. Every time she took one step, she seemed to slide back two. And even though she climbed until the sea was far below, the stars in the sky looked farther away than ever.
"But I won't give up," she told herself. "I've come so far, I can't go back."
Up and up she went. The air grew colder and colder, but the sky turned brighter, and finally she could tell she was nearing the stars.
"I'm almost there!" she cried.
And sure enough, suddenly she reached the very tiptop of the rainbow. Everywhere she looked, the stars were turning and dancing. They raced up and down, and back and forth, and spun in a thousand colors around her.
"I'm finally here," she whispered to herself. She had never seen anything so beautiful before, and she stood gazing and wondering at the heavens.
But after a while she realized she was shivering with cold, and when she looked down into the darkness, she could no longer see the earth. She wondered where her own home was, so far away, but no streetlamps or window lights marked the blackness below. She began to feel a little dizzy.
"I won't go until I touch one star," she told herself, and she stood on her toes and stretched her arms as high as she could. She reached farther and farther -- and suddenly a shooting star zipped by and surprised her so much she lost her balance.
Down she slid -- down -- down -- down the rainbow. The farther she slid, the warmer it grew, and the warmer it grew, the sleepier she felt. She gave a great yawn, and a small sigh, and before she knew it, she was fast asleep.
When she woke up, she found herself in her very own bed. The sun was peeking through her window, and the morning birds sang in the bushes and trees.
"Did I really touch the stars?" she asked herself. "Or was it only a dream?"
Then she felt something in her hand. When she opened her fist, a tiny light flashed in her palm, and at once was gone, and she smiled because she knew it was a speck of stardust.
Text copyright © 1995 by William J. Bennett
Illustrations copyright © 1995 by Michael Hague
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Book Description Audioworks, 1997. Audio CD. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M067153601X