The Teachings of Speaker Gingrich


by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
Baen Books/distributed by Simon and Schuster, 382 pp., $24.00

To Renew America

by Newt Gingrich
Harper Audio, 260 pp., $17.00 two cassettes (abridged, approximately three hours)


Among the personalities and books and events that have “influenced” or “changed” or “left an indelible impression on” the thinking of the Hon. Newton Leroy Gingrich (R-Ga.), the current Speaker of the House of Representatives and the author of 1945 and To Renew America, are, by his own accounts, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Isaac Asimov, Alexis de Tocqueville, Tom Clancy, Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent, Robert Walpole, William Gladstone, Gordon Wood, Peter Drucker, Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, the “Two Cultures” lectures of C.P. Snow (the lesson here for the Speaker was that “if you’re capable of being glib and verbal, the odds are you have no idea what you’re talking about but it sounds good, whereas if you know a great deal of what you’re saying the odds are you can’t get on a talk show because nobody can understand you”), Adam Smith, Zen and the Art of Archery, “the great leader of Coca-Cola for many years, Woodruff,” an Omaha entrepreneur named Herman Cain (“who’s the head of Godfather Pizza, he’s an African-American who was born in Atlanta and his father was Woodruff’s chauffeur”), Ray Kroc’s Grinding It Out, and Johan Huizinga’s The Waning of the Middle Ages.

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich; drawing by David Levine

There were also: Daryl Conner’s Managing at the Speed of Change, Sam Walton’s Made in America, Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The 1913 Girl Scout Handbook, Alcoholics Anonymous’s One Day at a Time, Gore Vidal’s Lincoln (“even though I’m not a great fan of Vidal”), the Sidney Pollack/Robert Redford motion picture Jeremiah Johnson (“a great film and a useful introduction to a real authentic American”), commercial overbuilding in the sunbelt (“I was first struck by this American passion for avoiding the lessons of history when I watched the Atlanta real estate boom of the early 1970s”), the science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle, the business consultant W. Edwards Deming (“Quality as Defined by Deming” is Pillar Five of Gingrich’s Five Pillars of American Civilization), and, famously, the Tofflers, Alvin and Heidi, “important commentators on the human condition” and “dear friends” as well.

It was these and other influences that gave Mr. Gingrich what Dick Williams, an Atlanta newspaperman and the author of Newt!, calls “an intellectual base that has been developing since he was in high school, collecting quotes and ideas on scraps of paper stored in shoeboxes.” It was in turn this collection of quotes and ideas on scraps of paper stored in shoeboxes (a classmate estimated that Mr. Gingrich had fifty such boxes, for use “in class and in politics”) that led in 1984 to Mr. Gingrich’s Window of Opportunity (described in its preface by Jerry Pournelle as “a detailed blueprint, a practical program that not only proves that we can all get rich, but shows how”); in 1993 to the televised “Renewing American Civilization” lectures…

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