At a moment when so many democracies appear beleaguered, Rice’s book presents an inspiring dose of hope. The stories that the former U.S. secretary of state tells all advance a central message: the desire for political rights and self-rule is deeply rooted in the human condition. But the book’s focus is political struggle and the contingent character of democratic movements: history, Rice makes clear, does not end. She weaves her own biography into the book, reflecting on her experiences as an African American woman in institutions dominated by white men and as a diplomat with a front-row seat to post-Soviet political transitions in eastern Europe and to Russia’s failed experiment with democratization. She also details fights for democratic change in the Middle East and in Colombia, Kenya, Poland, and Ukraine. Elections are not enough, she demonstrates: aspiring democracies need bedrock political institutions that create opportunities for people to exercise power. Authoritarian regimes are gaining ground today, but Rice is not convinced they are as strong as they look. Democratic breakthroughs are difficult to pull off, she concedes, but the human yearning for freedom is impossible to extinguish.
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