Greatness: Reagan, Churchill & the Making of Extraordinary Leaders by Steven F. Hayward
What is political greatness? Is it still possible in these egalitarian times? Were Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan great statesmen? If so, how so? In Greatness, Steven Hayward responds briskly, engagingly, and respectively: Read Aristotle; Yes; Yes; and Glad you asked.
Applied to the life and times and statesmanship of Churchill and Reagan, Greatness is, in effect, an extended essay answering Leo Strauss's frequently quoted charge to his students on the occasion of Churchill's death: "We have no higher duty, and no more pressing duty, than to remind ourselves and our students, of political greatness, human greatness, of the peaks of human excellence."
As usual, Hayward leaps to his subject with zest and writes with verve, proceeding from surface similarities to important differences to "the fundamental traits of statesmanship" that made each man great in his own way and time. Against the various familiar hangdog intellectual trends that reduce human beings to "corks bobbing on the waves of history," Hayward offers the noble words and deeds of Churchill and Reagan as anecdotal proof—is there any other kind available?—of the permanent possibility of heroic achievement.
It was worthwhile for Hayward to divert himself from his larger work (his two-volume biography of Reagan) to give us this one. Like its heroes, Greatness lifts the spirits and makes the world look fresh again.
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This article appeared in the Winter 2005-2006 issue of the Claremont Review of Books