Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders

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Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders

By Garry Wills
Simon & Schuster, 1994
336 pp. $23.00

Sixteen vignettes of leaders from F.D.R., Ross Perot, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to King David and Socrates are contrasted with even briefer portraits of 16 "anti-types," figures who displayed qualities opposite those of a leader. The theme of this highly eclectic book is that the best leaders do not always decide on what is right in a principled way and then persuade others to follow through sheer force of personality. Rather, they also reflect and are shaped by the desires and actions of their followers in a kind of ongoing dialogue. All of the portraits are colorfully written, and many point to interesting and overlooked aspects of character, such as F.D.R.'s political inconsistency and his extraordinary efforts to hide his inability to walk. Others are rather conventional (Nancy Reagan does not hold up well next to Eleanor Roosevelt, nor Madonna to Martha Graham), and some downright bizarre (such as the choice of Andrew Young as an exemplar of diplomatic leadership). Still, this is a highly readable book, with frequent insights into greatness of character.

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