Entertainment & the Arts: Sunday, July 17, 1994

”Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit Of Happiness”

By Mark Lindquist
Special to The Seattle Times

Seventy-three percent of Americans believe the United States is in “moral decline,” this decline a national obsession, according to Newsweek. Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for presidents Reagan and Bush, does with her second book what she always did for the White House: give voice to the anecdotes behind those numbers. What the media called Reagan’s genius – “the Great Communicator” – was really Noonan’s genius, the talent to score ideological points with stories.

In “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” Noonan searches to separate what is meaningful from what is not. Along the way she lays waste to various detours, particularly those of her own baby-boom generation. She also paints a devastating illustration of Gloria Steinem’s increasing irrelevance, trashes the rationalization that children need only “quality time,” and she connects the dots of our current youth crime wave with a rising materialism that has devalued motherhood.

Noonan understands that modern America’s problems are spiritual. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose “politics of meaning” was dismissed as political posturing, Noonan no longer has to score political points for a boss in the White House, so her search for what is meaningful, for what will save us, cannot be so easily dismissed. Unlike many of her contemporaries – such as former drug czar William J. Bennett – who have taken up the “values” dialogue in pursuit of power, Noonan joins because the search genuinely interests her.

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Mark Lindquist