ABOUT THE BOOK
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is a woman of passion, integrity, and faith. Her Christian witness requires her to remember and act on Jesus’ repeated instructions to love our neighbors, care for the poor, and repair the breaches among us. She makes a compelling case for those who share her faith to do the same.
—President William Jefferson Clinton
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has written a must-read book for anyone interested in the vital intersection of faith and politics. Her unique insight comes from her extensive experience in the corridors of power, both inside and outside of government, as well as her own personal story of faith and her family’s commitment to social justice. Above all, Kathleen understands that God is personal but never private. I highly commend this book for anyone who wants to understand the future of religion and politics in America.
—Jim Wallis, author of God’s Politics
In this heartfelt book, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend issues a stirring call to the Church she loves, to reinvigorate its ancient tradition of social justice. Part memoir, part history, Townsend writes with strength and wisdom.
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winning historian
Drawing on her rich life experience as both leader and citizen, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has brought us an irresistible combination of personal memoir, history and provocative argument, showing how faith has affected our American fathers and mothers – and how it might now empower our own generation and our children.
—Michael Beschloss, bestselling author and NBC presidential historian
This book is sure to move you personally and spiritually, and it should also move our politics and the moral compass of our society. Drawing on her own extraordinary life lessons and her sense of mission, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend speaks with grace about the joys and duties of true faith.
—Walter Isaacson, CEO, The Aspen Institute, author of Benjamin Franklin: An America Life
This book is charming and wonderfully readable…I will be urging people to read this compelling reveille and to pray over its message. The author deserves our admiration and gratitude for her eloquent reflections on what faith in God and the church mean today in American life and politics.
—Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
Kennedy Townsend’s personal reflections will reawaken in each of us our responsibility to work, not just for our own personal salvation, but for the healing of the “beloved community.” She reminds us of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us about working for peace with justice and caring for the needs of the poor: we must collectively sense “the urgency of now.”
—Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend demonstrates through this book that no one has a corner on faith. She reminds us that we are not judged by the symbols we wear or use in our speeches, but we are judged by our action and by the quality of our religious practice.
—Congressman John Lewis
“Instead of emphasizing the fact that we are all children of God, faith in America now divides communities.” So charges Townsend, daughter of Robert Kennedy, who offers a faith-based platform for liberals. The right gets religion wrong, and the left doesn’t get it at all, theologian Jim Wallis has observed. Townsend is proof to the contrary, a committed Catholic who despairs of the Church’s political leanings and who counters with an ethic of service to the poor and powerless. In a neat but too-brief analysis, she contrasts her father’s vision with that of Ronald Reagan, and by extension the liberal and conservative views of human nature. Asked by David Frost what people are put on earth for for, RFK replied, “If you’ve made some contribution to someone else, to improve their life, and make their life a little more livable, a little more happy, I think that’s what you should be doing.” Reagan, by contrast, argued, “Each man must find his own salvation . . . every man to be what God intended him to be.” Townsend dismisses the latter view as justification for “an entire multimillion-dollar industry that treats God as little more than a self-help guru who helps you be all you can be,” and the notion of compassionate conservatism as “just another way to put the wolf in sheep’s clothing.” There is an appropriate role for religion and the religious in politics, Townsend argues, one that reconciles the liberating vision of the Founding Fathers with values born of faith, such as those contained in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum; the public, she reckons, is ready for just such a hybrid, even as rightist clergy and politicians have insisted that it’s a war of each against all out there, undermining “the sense of national unity and collective responsibility that has mattered so much throughout American history.” Watch for elements of Townsend’s well-framed argument at the 2008 Democratic Convention.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend came of age during an incredible era of social change—one that saw the birth of the civil rights movement and the untimely deaths of three of the cause’s most prominent leaders. Now Townsend, a two-time Maryland lieutenant governor, offers readers a combination of touching memoir and powerful commentary about the state of American politics and religion. A staunch Democrat and member of one of the country’s most prominent Catholic families, Townsend admonishes the Catholic Church for losing sight of its commitment to social justice for our nation’s children and its poor. Townsend contends that the Catholic and evangelical leadership have chosen instead to focus their efforts—and their preaching—on highly divisive issues such as abortion and gay marriage. She asserts that fault for the deterioration of America’s religious landscape also lies with governmental leaders who espouse those same topics as the basis for their political platforms, while neglecting the primary needs of their constituents and their communities. Townsend’s stirring call to action is juxtaposed with recollections of her experiences as a young girl, witnessing the work of such figures as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as her father, Robert Kennedy, and her uncle John F. Kennedy. Though she takes a tough stance on many issues, Townsend’s unwavering love for her country and for her church permeates every page of this book, as she encourages readers to thoroughly examine where our nation has been and consider carefully where we are headed.
—Katie Broaddus, Bookpage
Drawing on her personal story of faith, her family’s commitment to social justice, and her political experience as Maryland lieutenant governor, Townsend issues a carefully wrought call to churches-Catholic and Protestant alike-to evaluate to what extent religion has become politicized and to refocus on working for the common good. She maintains that the mix of politics and God is leading America ‘s faithful astray, noting that it was faith that inspired those who fought for civil rights, joined the Peace Corps, and made the United States a moral voice in the world. While some may find her portrayal too black and white or feel the churches’ emphasis on so-called single issues (e.g., abortion) may not be as detrimental to the community’s well-being as she believes, Townsend’s heartfelt book, in which she issues a clarion call to take on poverty, hunger, homelessness, and illness, deserves a hearing. Sen. John Danforth’s Faith and Politics and David Kuo’s Tempting Faith contain a similar underlying hope supporting Townsend’s commentary. Public libraries seeking works for discussion of contemporary issues or reflection on the mix of faith and politics would do well to add this title.
—Library Journal, March 15, 2007