My introduction to Dennis Prager took place in 1981, at a synagogue in Reno, Nevada. There we were – a group of grown men huddled around a tape player – listening to a recording of a guy who was principally known to Angelinos through his local radio show called “Religion on the Line.” Dennis has raised his profile a good bit since then, and he has done much to change the world in the process.
Prager has just released his fifth book, entitled Still the Best Hope, which he refers to as the culmination of his life’s work. That speaks loudly for a man who has become one of America’s most recognized voices on the American cultural scene. Between his national radio show, his frequent television appearances, and his non-stop speaking schedule (throughout the United States and around the world), Prager has come a long way from those days thirty years ago when a minyan gathered to hear his insights.
Prager has clearly and cogently evaluated the three greatest forces of societal thought today – Leftism, Islamism, and America – to convincingly argue why America stands out as the greatest force for mankind. Dennis presents a detailed explanation of the weaknesses of both the Left and Islam – not only today, but throughout their history. After effectively dismantling both cultures as a beneficial conduit for man’s hopes and dreams, Prager takes you into an explanation of American principles – where they derive from and why they have provided more people of all races, creeds, and religions with the greatest wealth and lifestyle in the history of the planet.
Many of the themes within the book will be very familiar to regular listeners of his radio show, which elicits two questions: why should you read this book, and who else should? Though you may already have heard many of his conclusions on the Left and Islam, Prager masterfully ties the package together during the final portion of the book, which defines American thought. Dennis conveyed to me that he struggled mightily to write this book. It is longer than he wanted it to be, yet he had to omit some things that he still wanted to convey. However, having now read it, I believe that his struggle was worth the pain because it seems just right in its length and how it culminates.
A book this conceptually rich provides particular moments for each individual reader. For me, there were two. On page 315, Prager writes about what liberty means. He states that one of our freedoms is the ability to fail; a clearly monumental statement. There is not one major historical American who did not experience failure, best exemplified by Abraham Lincoln. Our government is trying to eliminate failure from the American lexicon, an effort that (if successful) would be extremely damaging to our values. Later, on Page 330, Prager discusses where our liberty originates, and concludes that the only place it can possibly come from is God. If liberty is provided by man, it can be taken away; but, if it’s from God, it is ours unfettered. This is a uniquely American value that was derived from the Bible and established in our Declaration of Independence.
Recommending a friend’s book often presents some difficulty. You have to balance your commitment to journalistic principles with the desire to have your friend succeed. My interview with Dennis was between an author and a columnist, and he will discover my thoughts about his book when reading this column.
Through the years, I have seen Dennis undergo his own enlightenment, having to overcome his Democratic roots – something we both faced. His were, frankly, more challenging than mine. The roots of his conversion centered upon his study of the Soviet Union. He told me that his final transition was triggered by his insight that the Left was no longer able (nor willing) to confront the evil of Communism. In effect, there were no “Scoop Jackson Democrats” remaining. As someone who rarely has a philosophical difference with Dennis (we had a significant one on the public behavior of President Clinton), I can’t think of much that I would change in this book.
So back to the question of who should read the book. If you are a regular listener of Prager’s show, you will undoubtedly benefit from the time spent reading the book. People in the center or center-right who are unfamiliar with Dennis (hard to believe, but there are still some) will definitely benefit from his thoughtful insight. Of course, the people who would gain the most would be those who believe in the values of the Left or Islam. Getting even one of them to read this book would advance the hopes of mankind.
As I mentioned before, Prager insists that this book is the culmination of his life’s work. Don’t believe him. Knowing his family history, he still has many years to educate Americans on the gift our country has been to the world in which we live. I fully expect Prager to publish other volumes, but Still the Best Hope stands out as a marvelous explanation of why the principles on which this country were founded represent the finest opportunity for mankind to reach its greatest potential.
That is something often lost in our muddled times.