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Lives of Moral Leadership

Coles, Robert

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ISBN 10: 0375501088 / ISBN 13: 9780375501081
Published by Random House Inc, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A., 2000
Used Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
From Shire Book Shop (Franklin, MA, U.S.A.)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Lives of Moral Leadership

Publisher: Random House Inc, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Edition: 1st

About this title


In this rich and illuminating book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author Robert Coles creates a portrait of moral leadership--what it is, and how it is achieved--through stories of people who have led and inspired him: Robert Kennedy, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Erik Erikson, a Boston bus driver, teachers in college, medical school, and elementary school, among others.

Coles tells how to be a moral leader and shows how the intervention of one person can change the course of history, as well as influence the day-to-day quality of life in our homes, schools, communities, and nation. We need to "hand one another along" in life, says Coles, quoting his friend Walker Percy, and in Lives of Moral Leadership he explores how each of us can be engaged in a continual and mutual life-giving process of personal and national leadership development. Coles discusses how the actions of the American president affect the way people feel about themselves and the country, and-citing the influence of Shakespeare's Henry V on Robert Kennedy, and of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina on his own mother--explains how reading literature can motivate action and growth. The way in which moral leaders emerge today, and for all time, comes vividly to light in this brilliant book by one of America's finest teachers and writers.


Here is another book that has its origin in the impeachment of President Clinton. Yet Robert Coles, a noted psychiatrist, bestselling author (The Moral Intelligence of Children), and Pulitzer Prize winner (Children of Crisis), does not deliver a polemicized account of those days. Instead, he tries to describe moral exemplars--something he thinks his country desperately requires:

We need heroes, people who can inspire us, help shape us morally, spur us on to purposeful action--and from time to time we are called on to be those heroes, leaders for others, either in a small, day-to-day way, or on the world's larger stage. At this time in America, and in the rest of the world, we seem to need moral leadership especially, but the need for moral inspiration is ever present.
Coles writes about Robert F. Kennedy (whom he knew personally), Shakespeare's Henry V (who had an influence on RFK, reports Coles), the literature of Conrad and Tolstoy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dorothy Day--even Al Jones, a black bus driver in Boston during that city's school desegregation controversy. The book's bottom-line message is an encouraging one: moral leaders are important, and they may be present in places where we don't normally go looking for them. "Moral leadership as we study it in history and politics (from the distance of time and events we never get to see or learn about in any detail) is also moral leadership that can happen right in front of us or not far away," notes Coles, quoting the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. We look up to political leaders all the time--or at least try to, or think we should. "But we also constantly look to one another, to uphold for one another various suppositions and ideals, to hand one another along, morally as well as psychologically," writes Coles (this time in his own words, with allusion to Walker Percy). In the end, Lives of Moral Leadership is a plea that all of us can become moral leaders--and many of us must. --John J. Miller

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