The Bully Pulpit

Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism

The Bully Pulpit

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One of the Best Books of the Year as chosen by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Time, USA TODAY, Christian Science Monitor, and more. “A tale so gripping that one questions the need for fiction when real life is so plump with drama and intrigue” (Associated Press).

The gap between rich and poor has never been wider…legislative stalemate paralyzes the country…corporations resist federal regulations…spectacular mergers produce giant companies…the influence of money in politics deepens…bombs explode in crowded streets…small wars proliferate far from our shores…a dizzying array of inventions speeds the pace of daily life.

These unnervingly familiar headlines serve as the backdrop for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s highly anticipated The Bully Pulpit—a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air.

The story is told through the intense friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft—a close relationship that strengthens both men before it ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight for the presidential nomination that divides their wives, their children, and their closest friends, while crippling the progressive wing of the Republican Party, causing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected, and changing the country’s history.

The Bully Pulpit is also the story of the muckraking press, which arouses the spirit of reform that helps Roosevelt push the government to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward robber barons, corrupt politicians, and corporate exploiters of our natural resources. The muckrakers are portrayed through the greatest group of journalists ever assembled at one magazine—Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and William Allen White—teamed under the mercurial genius of publisher S. S. McClure.

Goodwin’s narrative is founded upon a wealth of primary materials. The correspondence of more than four hundred letters between Roosevelt and Taft begins in their early thirties and ends only months before Roosevelt’s death. Edith Roosevelt and Nellie Taft kept diaries. The muckrakers wrote hundreds of letters to one another, kept journals, and wrote their memoirs. The letters of Captain Archie Butt, who served as a personal aide to both Roosevelt and Taft, provide an intimate view of both men.

The Bully Pulpit, like Goodwin’s brilliant chronicles of the Civil War and World War II, exquisitely demonstrates her distinctive ability to combine scholarly rigor with accessibility. It is a major work of history—an examination of leadership in a rare moment of activism and reform that brought the country closer to its founding ideals.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 928 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416547860 | 
  • November 2013
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Bully Pulpit includes an introduction, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

In this critically acclaimed work, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin turns her attention to the first decade of the Progressive era, the tumultuous time when the nation was coming apart at its seams—the gap between the rich and the poor had never been wider, corporations resisted federal regulation, and political parties could be bought— and reform was in the air.

Goodwin frames her narrative around the intense friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, which strengthens each man before it completely ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight against each other for the presidential nomination, crippling the Progressive wing of the Republican Party in the process. It’s also the story of the muckraking press, which Roosevelt credited with changing the nation’s politics.

Founded upon a wealth of primary materials, The Bully Pulpit demonstrates Goodwin’s trademark ability to combine scholarly rigor with accessibility. It is a major work of history—a see more

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About the Author

Doris Kearns Goodwin
© Annie Leibovitz 2018

Doris Kearns Goodwin

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN’s interest in leadership began more than half a century ago as a professor at Harvard. Her experiences working for LBJ in the White House and later assisting him on his memoirs led to her bestselling Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She followed up with the Pulitzer Prize–winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. She earned the Lincoln Prize for the runaway bestseller Team of Rivals, the basis for Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film Lincoln, and the Carnegie Medal for The Bully Pulpit, the New York Times bestselling chronicle of the friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts. Visit her at DorisKearnsGoodwin.com or @DorisKGoodwin.

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