News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: Books, their dedications, and the media

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–While his inauspicious beginnings as the only child of orthodox Jewish Russian émigrés did not augur his future notoriety, Saul Alinsky remains a man of tremendous influence to many on the left, including Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, Marian Wright Edelman, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Alinsky died in June 1972, but his principles, particularly as the “father” of the community organizing movement, survive him.

Some have called him Barack Obama’s political “spirit guide.” The president’s successful campaign for the White House was framed on a foundation Alinsky built.

Soon after Obama graduated from Columbia University in 1983 he went to Chicago to work as a community organizer on the city’s South Side, where Alinsky had been based. While Alinsky had already died, Obama was hired by those who had firsthand knowledge of Alinsky’s modus operandi, and reportedly Obama was a devout student of Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals.”

There is no question that community organizing remains a critical cog in the president’s worldview, but Obama is not alone among Washington, D.C., power brokers in his affinity for Alinsky.

Hillary Clinton did her senior thesis at Wellesley College on Alinsky and his model of social change, noting, “There is no lack of issues; what is missing is the politically sophisticated organizers.” She also wrote of him, “If the ideals Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution.” In fact, Alinsky offered Clinton a job, which she declined, choosing instead to enroll in law school at Yale.

Clinton’s thesis was embargoed during the entire time her husband, Bill, was in the White House. No doubt that was because the paper is such a strong endorsement of Alinsky and his principles, including this maxim from Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals: “That perennial question, ‘Does the end justify the means?’ is meaningless as it stands; the real and only question regarding the ethics of means and ends is, and has always has been, ‘Does this particular end justify this particular means?'”

Alinsky, a criminologist by training, details in the book’s first chapter a clear distinction between his book and an earlier classic political treatise: “‘The Prince’ was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. ‘Rules for Radicals’ is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.” He later terms the book “a manual for the Have-Nots of the world regardless of the color of their skins or their politics.”

His stated aim was “to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people….” Alinsky hoped to convert the “hot, emotional, impulsive passions [of radicals] that are impotent and frustrating” into “actions that will be calculated, purposeful, and effective.”

Alinsky’s book remains a founding document of sorts for those involved in grassroots organizing.

Yet there is something extremely noteworthy about his Rules for Radicals that few have noted. While his dedication of the book to Irene, his third wife, is innocent enough, the radical wasn’t through with his formal notes of appreciation.

A notation in the book’s front matter should give everyone pause:

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.” — Saul Alinsky

This startling front-of-the-book salute to Lucifer is clear admission that Alinsky’s intentions were not entirely secular.

Yet while Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, presidential candidate, U.S. Senator, and now U.S. Secretary of State, no one in the mainstream press has ever publicized the fact that Lucifer was so admired by the subject of her senior thesis.

And Barack Obama honed his skills as a community activist teaching Rules for Radicals in Chicago with the same people who were Alinsky’s disciples. Yet not a word from the media.

It says much about Clinton and Obama’s worldview that they have built so much of their life’s work on Alinsky’s teachings. It says even more about the national electronic and print media that most Americans don’t know of Alinsky’s admiration for Lucifer.

One can scarcely imagine the hue and cry that would have erupted if it had been discovered that George W. Bush had written his senior thesis at Yale on a person whose seminal work contained even a tacit dedication to Lucifer.

And how shrill would the pundits’ calls be if it were found that Sen. John McCain had taught the writings of a man whose best-known work gave a well-placed tip of the hat to the Prince of Darkness himself?

Let’s face it: The national secular media is in the tank for those on the left.

Book dedications can have far-reaching implications for authors. They are not casually dropped in the front of a book just prior to it going on the press. As an author of multiple books, I can honestly tell you that the content on the dedication pages of each of my books was purposeful and well-considered.

Trustees of the University of Illinois-Chicago recently took note of a dedication in a book by William Ayers, one of the founders of the violent group the Weather Underground and an associate of President Obama.

Ayers, who recently retired from the school, was being considered for emeritus faculty status. A professor’s bid for such status is typically noncontroversial.

Yet a 1974 book “Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism,” which Ayers co-authored, is dedicated to what the Associated Press termed “a lengthy list of revolutionary figures,” including Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968.

Ayers has said he doesn’t “regret setting bombs,” and in his memoirs, “Fugitive Days,” he confesses that he found a “certain eloquence to bombs, a poetry and a pattern from a safe distance.”

The affinity of Ayers for Sen. Kennedy’s assassin was not at all appreciated by Christopher Kennedy, chairman of the school’s trustee body and the son of the late senator. He urged his fellow trustees to reject the honor for Ayers.

The university’s trustees heeded Kennedy’s wishes and declined to give the emeritus faculty status to Ayers, who the Sept. 27, 2010 Investor’s Business Daily explained “became an academic when he realized he could do more damage to our society by controlling what our children are taught than by blowing up buildings one at a time.”

While it is said you can tell a lot about a book by its cover, it is even more true that you can tell a lot about an author by perusing the pages before a book’s table of contents.
Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

    About the Author

  • Richard Land

    Richard Land, D. Phil, is the Executive Editor of the Christian Post, having previously served as president of the ERLC (1988-2013) and president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (2013-2021). He also serves as the chairman of the advisory board at the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    Read All by Richard Land ›