Author: Todd S. Purdum
Review: Doug Shipman, CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights Inc.
“An Idea Whose Time Has Come” gives a detailed and at many times surprising account of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The story uncovers the alliances, deals, egos and moments on the way to passing the watershed legislation. The book reads like a novel with well-known characters including Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon Johnson, and Robert Kennedy relying on lesser known or forgotten individuals like Everett Dirksen, Emmanuel Celler and William McCulloch to bring the bill into law. The story has as much intrigue, deal-making, backstabbing and individual courage as any novel.
The book also struck a chord with me given the current political environment, where even small political deals seem out of reach. The story of the 1964 Civil Rights Act showcases how America’s politics works best: individual perspectives and motivations are harnessed in order to produce an imperfect consensus built on compromise by all parties. The bill fell short of the moral challenge of the day, but marked a crucial step in creating a more equal and just society. The book reminded me of the importance of America’s political process and the great challenge we face when compromise is seen as untenable. It’s a wonderful read for those who love history and for all of us looking for inspiration to tackle today’s tough social challenges.
Read Mr. Shipman’s book from last year: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia