Series Overview and Summary of Books One & Two

Series Overview and Summary of Books One & Two

Book Three: Dead Serious and Light-Hearted | Book Four: Grading on the Curve
Book Five: A Reasoned Case for Optimism | Book Six: No Dog in the Fight | Book Seven: The Brilliance of Many

The Chance of a Lifetime…
A Series of Short Books About The Patient Remaking of American Life


Book One: The Relevance of Reason
The True Facts and Hard Data About the State of Current America – Business and Politics (July, 2013)


Book Two: The Relevance of Reason
The True Facts and Hard Data About the State of Current America – Society and Culture

(October 1, 2013)

The Chance of a Lifetime is a series of seven books about the need and the means for the patient remaking of American life.

Drawing upon an analysis of the last approximate 55 years from 1957 through 2015, these books describe the current state of the American condition and identify what must be done to change the direction of our country and to improve the quality of our American life.

The frequent references to America’s recent history are intended to remind us of both our accomplishments and our failings. These books draw upon a wide range of writings – such as from the wisdom of Herbert Croly’s Promise of American Life, the breadth of Durant’s History of Civilization, the cultural narrative of William Manchester’s The Glory and the Dream, the academic precision of James T. Patterson’s Restless Giant, the period insights of Halberstam’s The Fifties and The Best and the Brightest, the brilliant succinctness of Kurt Andersen’s Reset, the perspectives of Michael Bechloss, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Brinkley, and a wide array of contemporary writers, essayists, columnists, and economic, political, and social critics holding vastly differing perspectives.

Our American history has a particular relevance to the subjects of this series of books. First, it is our own history as a nation, bumpy a ride though it may have been, that can give us the courage to know that we can, once again, change. Secondly, it is our own history that can grant us the both the perspective and the patience to change. Courage, perspective, and patience are not idle companions. To the contrary, they are three of the certain precursors to meaningful change and to assured progress. The devolution of our contemporary American life has occurred over many decades and for many reasons. Our solutions are going to take time. We are going to have to learn to enjoy, or at least survive, the ride.

The first two books, The Relevance of Reason – Business and Politics (July, 2013) and The Relevance of Reason – Society and Culture (October 1, 2013) are humble responses to one of the great paradoxes of modern life — that in our Age of Information, facts about our American life — facts unaltered or filtered by agenda or self-interest — are incredibly hard to find. From a multitude of different and balanced sources, these books present the fascinating facts and the real data about, respectively, American business and political life and American society and culture.

As suggested by the title of the three-volume Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America, the books in this series address serious subjects, they do so with a degree of humor and levity. Thus, they do not hesitate to also draw upon the touch of the balloon-boy, Lady Gaga, Red Bull absurdities which have become a part of American life over the last decades.

The reasons for the inclusion of humor, levity and touches of the absurd are, however, far more than mere matters of writing style. They are included for a reason.

Americans have not taken a deep breath in two decades, and humor and levity are need more than ever. They can, almost by themselves, be humanizing. They may help us take the edge off of our conversations.  They may be the best means by which to slowly change the scowling, go-figure grumpy tone of our current American conversation. Most Americans still laugh far better than they argue, but the American conversation has come to include a too long a list of toxic subjects — guns and butter, war and peace, role of government, states’ rights, church and state, culture war issues, and personal and civic responsibility. These subjects bring forth a witch’s brew of emotions. Frustration, disillusionment, and anger oftentimes surface. But that has to change.

In addition to the use of humor and levity, these books are kept short. Most Americans are tired of talking in paragraphs, and few of us need another inch-thick book about defeatism and decline. Defeatism serves no purpose, and, more importantly, suggestions of declinism are misguided. The very words – defeatism and declinism – affront America’s long traditions of ingenuity, self-reliance and success. While some, even many, may at first disagree, it is argued both that strains of denialism may be too prevalent and that mere incantations of America’s exceptionalism will not enough. Just like the tab on Facebook – “It’s complicated.”

But there are also areas of broadening consensus, and these books build upon them.

There is a broadening consensus that America’s problems are numerous, compounding, and inter-related. Except in the one instance relating to generational role and conduct of us baby-boomers, these books do not expend energy or words in honing criticism or assigning blame. Those subjects have been well-covered by a hundred other writers.

There is a broadening consensus that America’s political system is dysfunctional and that it is incapable of correcting itself. It will not be corrected by the electoral arrival of unifying political leader, by a crop of new faces, by even the improved behavior of our leaders, or by the occurrence of some epiphanous enlightenment. We just can no longer await bursts of brilliance or accidental honesty. Instead, we must adjust to the reality that our electoral and legislative processes are not going to readily change or quickly improve.

There is a broadening consensus that America’s Darwinian economic system is at best challenged and that the disparate allocations of income, wealth, and opportunity may be counter-productive to the long-run success and safety of our country. These are matters of fair and honest debate, but our economic system and its allocations are not going to correct themselves by the free run of market forces or by the application of either more or less regulation. It has not been helpful that, whether from frustration or as a matter of strategy, many important issues relating to our economic system have become a mere part of the political grudge match currently in play.

Our society has changed in many other ways and for many other reasons. Many of America’s traditional behavioral restraints have been diminished. Many of our communities have been re-defined; others have been dangerously weakened. Anxiety, fear and pessimism have become pervasive forces. Good people fight for their jobs. Good parents fight for the good education of their children. Accurate information is terribly difficult to find despite the cascade of Google-Wiki data which keeps coming. More and more it seems as though we can color within the lines, but we cannot seem to connect the dots.

Our senses of personal and civic responsibilities have been affronted by the disappointing acts of some of our leaders and by the media’s continuing obsession with ratings, celebrities, New Jersey housewives, ice road truckers, and pawn shop owners. Half of America knew Lindsey Lohan’s prison release date. That itself is a problem.

For these and other reasons, enough is enough. It is not surprising that the patience of many Americans has expired. We must act.

Almost by default, it is up to us to re-define the direction and achieve the changes which are necessary to improve the security and quality of American life. It is time for America to change. Once again.

Through our words, actions, and example, it is time for us to lead; to think; to restrain; and to encourage. We will need to reign in our anxieties and contain our fears. But we must stand together; one more time; again.

These books will present many ways in which we can improve our own lives and those of our families, our friends, and our communities. We do not need to wait for funding to come through; for coalitions to be built; for third-parties to be formed; or for another economy calamity to reach critical mass meltdown.

There is a path home, and we may be in a period of peculiar opportunity.

These books (gently) encourage the assertion of our personal powers and the better acceptance of our personal responsibilities. These books identify, with specificity, those things which we can do for our communities and for country and in our own self-interest. Once again and one by one, we must re-take the lead; re-direct the focus of our country from critique to effort; and apply our energies. The place to begin is everywhere.

The breadth of these topics is, admittedly, terribly wide. Over the last several years I have, at times, feared that this entire effort may be nothing more than a fool’s errand or what the historian, Will Durant, used to refer to as, more gently, a “brave stupidity.” Nevertheless, I have chosen to continue my undertaking – my brave stupidity – with a certain stubborn diligence.

In summary, the methodology of these books is direct. Books One and Two (The Relevance of Reason – Business and Politics and The Relevance of Reason – Society and Culture) present the hard facts and real data about Current America. The next three books, (Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modernm America (Volume I (1957-1976), Volume II (1977-1993), and Volume ((( (1994-2015) will present those words, those “memorable words,” by which the reader, depending upon which of the now four generations of Americans of which they are a member, can either reflect and remember or learn and consider those words and events which comprise the recent history of Modern America.

On a personal note, it has taken — so far — nearly seven years to write these books. I know that America does not need merely another perspective. That has already been done. In some cases, it has already been done brilliantly. But, now, it is time for a new approach. It is time for America to turn from critique to effort; from effort to success.

I hope that you will find these books useful. Remembering the importance of humor and levity, I offer that these books ere written with coffee. They should be read with beer.