What Unites Us Book Summary - What Unites Us Book explained in key points

What Unites Us summary

Dan Rather with Elliot Kirschner

Reflections on Patriotism

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What is What Unites Us about?

What Unites Us (2017) is an ode to American traditions, ideals, and solidarity. Drawing on Dan Rather’s long career as a political reporter, it appeals to all that is good and enduring in US culture and politics.

About the Author

Dan Rather is a veteran American journalist and former news anchor at CBS. He has reported on American affairs and public life for seven decades, and is the author of books including Rather Outspoken and I Remember. His co-author Elliot Kirschner is a best-selling author and Emmy-award-winning producer.

Table of Contents
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    A free and undaunted press is essential to America’s wellbeing.

    Have you ever read George Orwell’s novel 1984? It tells the story of a society gone mad. A world in which propaganda runs amok, history is constantly revised, and the notion of objective truth has lost all meaning.

    Sound familiar to you? Well, if that dystopia reminds you of the world we currently live in, you’re not alone. In fact, a new generation of readers has come to Orwell’s story because they believe the dismal society he envisioned is already taking shape in the US.

    Luckily, one important factor helps us to avoid the oppressive atmosphere depicted in 1984. According to the author, it’s America’s press – the reporters, pundits, and political journalists who have long held the powerful accountable.

    The key message here is: A free and undaunted press is essential to America’s wellbeing.

    After defeating the British, America’s Founding Fathers developed their constitution as carefully as possible. Their main aim was to institute a government of limited powers – with checks and balances to keep would-be dictators in place.

    To that end, the very first amendment to the Constitution was designed to guarantee the liberty of the press. And in the centuries since then, America has always been at its strongest when its journalists have felt empowered to question and investigate a political leader’s actions.

    Not convinced? Well, take a look at what can happen when journalists stop asking tough questions – like when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.

    The press should have scrutinized the government’s reasoning. Was war really necessary? Did the US need to worry that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction”? Not enough journalists posed these sorts of questions. The majority were quick to merely accept the arguments of those in charge.

    In the end, the Iraq war ended up destabilizing a region that was already at boiling point. In recent years, the Middle East has seen a brutal civil war in Syria, the rise of Iran as a global power, and the emergence of ISIS and other groups of terrorists. We might have been able to avert these crises if we’d thought twice before beginning the war on Iraq in the first place.

    That’s a lesson worth remembering these days. With reporters being intimidated by top, elected officials, and the press constantly disparaged as “fake news,” it’s worth reflecting on what happens when the media neglect their duties. As Iraq can teach us, it’s rarely good.

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    Who should read What Unites Us

    • Americans no longer sure what their country stands for
    • International observers interested in what makes Americans tick
    • US citizens concerned by rampant polarization

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