American Sketches: Great Leaders Quotes.

1. "Kissinger would probably be outraged even if he reread his own memoirs, on the grounds that they are not favorable enough."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

2. "As much as Henry Kissinger wanted to attribute historical movement to impersonal forces, he too conceded to "the difference personalities make"."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

3. "Henry Luce to his Time magazine writers: "Tell the history of our time through the people who make it."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

4. "stories involving the troubles in Northern Ireland, Morocco’s war for the Spanish Sahara, and a ring of traders violating the sanctions against Rhodesia. He was exhilarated by danger. Once in Belfast he insisted that we go cover a demonstration, when I was quite content to stay at the bar of the Europa Hotel. He showed me that even though the street clashes might seem violent and bloody on television, just a half block away things were calm and safe. Journalism required an eagerness to get up and go places. While we were out, a bomb went off at the Europa Hotel. Blundy insisted that this should serve as a lesson for me. I agreed. But when he was killed a few years later by a sniper’s bullet in El Salvador, I gave up trying to fathom the meaning of the lesson he wanted me to learn."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

5. "assessing Ronald Reagan. There are so many basic questions that even his friends cannot quite figure out, such as (to start with the most basic one): Was he smart? From the brilliant-versus-clueless question flows even more complex ones. Was he a visionary who clung to a few verities, or an amiable dunce who floated obliviously above facts and nuances? Was he a stubborn ideological coot or a clever negotiator able to change course when dealing with Congress and the Soviets and movie moguls? Was he a historic figure who stemmed the tide of government expansion and stared down Moscow, or an out-of-touch actor who bloated the deficit and deserves less credit than Gorbachev for ending the cold war? The most solidly reported biography of Reagan so far—indeed, the only solidly reported biography—is by the scrupulously fair newspaperman Lou Cannon, who has covered him since the 1960s. Edmund Morris, who with great literary flair captured the life of Theodore Roosevelt, was given the access to write an authorized biography, but he became flummoxed by the topic; he took an erratic swing by producing Dutch, a semifictionalized ruminative bio-memoir, thus fouling off his precious opportunity. Both Garry Wills in his elegant 1987 sociobiography, Reagan’s America, and Dinesh D’Souza in his 1997 delicate drypoint, Ronald Reagan, do a good job of analyzing why he was able to make such a successful connection with the American people."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

6. "early years at Time, I was assigned to work under the national affairs editor, Otto Friedrich, a wry man with a bushy red mustache who seemed perpetually amused by himself. He taught me a wonderful insight about journalism and later biography: Obscure facts and pieces of colorful detail, even though they may seem trivial, provide the texture and verisimilitude that make for a great narrative. It was something that Plutarch noted at the beginning of his Lives: Sometimes a matter of lesser moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their character and inclinations, than the most famous sieges. Friedrich had expanded on the notion in a piece he titled There Are 00 Trees in Russia. The 00 referred to the way a newsmagazine writer sticks in 00 or TK as a placeholder for a fact and then lets a researcher fill it in. From Friedrich, who wrote books on the side, I learned that writing biographies and histories could be a satisfying accompaniment to a day job in journalism. When covering the 1980 Reagan campaign, I was struck by the bug-eyed bevy of people who showed up on the fringes of rallies and handed out leaflets purporting to expose the insidious nature of the East Coast foreign policy establishment. The leaflets were filled with charts and arrows about the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Rockefellers, the Bilderberg Group, Skull and Bones, and various banking cabals. I asked my Time colleague Evan Thomas about it, under the theory that as an East Coast preppy he could decode it. Eventually we began to talk about writing a book that would explore the reality and myths about the establishment. We sketched it out in a summer cottage in Sag Harbor on Long Island. I’m a night person, and would try to stay up until 5 a.m., at which point I would hand over my notes to Evan, who got up around then. We’d go to the beach in the afternoon. We came around to the dual approaches that were at the core of our work at Time: Tell the tale through people, and make it a chronological narrative."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

7. "Kissinger traces the balances made in foreign policy, including that of realism and idealism, from the times of Cardinal Richelieu through chapters on Theodore Roosevelt the realist and Woodrow Wilson the idealist. Kissinger, a European refugee who has read Metternich more avidly than Jefferson, is unabashedly in the realist camp. No other nation, he wrote in Diplomacy, has ever rested its claim to international leadership on its altruism. Other Americans might proclaim this as a point of pride; when Kissinger says it, his attitude seems that of an anthropologist examining a rather unsettling tribal ritual. The practice of basing policy on ideals rather than interests, he pointed out, can make a nation seem dangerously unpredictable."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

8. "Congress decided to put him on a committee to write a declaration explaining why the colonies were seeking independence. It was back in the days when Congress knew how to appoint really good committees: Franklin and Jefferson and John Adams were on it. They knew that leadership required not merely asserting values, but finding a balance when values conflict. We can see that in the deft editing of the famous sentence that opens the second paragraph of the Declaration. We hold these truths to be sacred . . . , Jefferson had written. On the copy of his draft at the Library of Congress we can see the dark printer’s ink and backslashes of Franklin’s pen as he changes it to We hold these truths to be self-evident. His point was that our rights would come from rationality and the consent of the governed, not the dictates and dogma of any religion. Jefferson’s draft sentence went on to say that all men have certain inalienable rights. We can see Adams’s hand making an addition: They are endowed by their Creator with these inalienable rights. So just in the editing of one half of one sentence we can see how Franklin and his colleagues struck a unifying balance between the grace of divine providence and the role of democratic consent in the founding values of our nation."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

9. "the rivalry between the big and little states almost tore the convention apart. Their dispute was over whether the legislative branch should be proportioned by population or by equal votes per state. Finally, Franklin arose to make a motion on behalf of a compromise that would have a House proportioned by population and a Senate with equal votes per state. When a broad table is to be made, and the edges of planks do not fit, the artist takes a little from both, and makes a good joint, he said. In like manner here, both sides must part with some of their demands. His point was crucial for understanding the art of true political leadership: Compromisers may not make great heroes, but they do make great democracies. The toughest part of political leadership, however, is knowing when to compromise and when to stand firm on principle. There is no easy formula for figuring that out, and Franklin got it wrong at times. At the Constitutional Convention, he went along with a compromise that soon haunted him: permitting the continuation of slavery. But he was wise enough to try to rectify such mistakes. After the Constitutional Convention, he became the president of a society for the abolition of slavery. He realized that humility required tolerance for other people’s values, which at times required compromise; however, it was important to be uncompromising in opposing those who refused to show tolerance for others. During his lifetime, Benjamin Franklin donated to the building fund of each and every church built in Philadelphia. And at one point, when a new hall was being built to accommodate itinerate preachers, Franklin wrote the fund-raising document and urged citizens to be tolerant enough so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service. And on his deathbed, he was the largest individual contributor to the building fund for Mikveh Israel, the first synagogue in Philadelphia."
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

10. "Just because you can't act EVERYWHERE doesn't mean you don't act ANYWHERE. – Madeleine Albright"
- Walter Isaacson, American Sketches: Great Leaders

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