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Cycles and Storms

I am writing this review on Election Day without knowing the results of the presidential election. According to The Storm Before the Calm by George Friedman, this election, despite what the candidates tell us, is actually not that important. The important one will occur in 2028.

Our country is currently experiencing rising anger and political polarity. People are distraught and are worrying about what has happened to our country, believing this is the first time it has ever happened. Friedman says that isn’t the case; this has happened four other times in the history of the U.S. His premise is that our country goes through institutional cycles every 80 years and socioeconomic cycles every 50 years. At the end of each cycle, the factors that drove success for our country lose their effectiveness, and a new order must emerge. He writes that we will have increasing turmoil and divisiveness in this country for the next eight years. In fact, it will get extremely stormy—because this is the first time the end of both cycles has coincided.

Friedman says Americans believe that the president has much more power than a president actually has. He says that they are actually “street signs” while the issues work themselves out below the surface. The framers of the Constitution purposely limited their power. Every 50 years there is a president left holding the bag; they are married to the old system when it is no longer effective. John Quincy Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter hold that place in history. We will not know who the next one is until the election of 2024. Then, when it is clear that the system is broken, a new president will be elected in 2028 who starts our country in a new direction that leads to a long period of prosperity and social peace.

This is just a short synopsis of the main points of the book. This is a worthwhile insight into how beautifully our country is designed, and why America’s rise to superpower status was pre-ordained by our forefathers when they wrote the Constitution. Friedman is a strategist who has gained renown for his insights regarding future events. His last book, The Next 100 Years, came out at the start of the millennium, and has been well received. There is substantial information and reasoning that supports his theory. Obviously, no one can predict the future exactly—but knowing our history gives one a certain level of comfort that the sky is not falling. This is an important book that is on my must-read list.

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson is an intimate look at Winston Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister of Great Britain at the start of WWII. It is also an intimate look at the man himself, drawn from recently opened secret archives and other sources. It chronicles his efforts to drag his nation back from the brink of defeat and defeatism by the sheer force of his words and his will. His words to the House of Commons, “I have nothing to offer but blood, tears, toil and sweat,” are an adept summation of his job description. He took control of a country that years of appeasement to Nazi Germany had left woefully unprepared for war. Churchill’s resolute refusal to consider anything less than Germany’s unconditional surrender bolstered Roosevelt’s confidence enough to send the supplies that kept England in the war.

The book extends beyond Churchill to his inner circle of family and friends who supported him throughout that painful first year. It will help you understand the man himself, not just his public image. You will realize that Dos Equis got it wrong—Churchill is easily the most interesting man in the world. Who else would invite the president of the United States into his hotel suite wearing nothing but a cigar and a glass of brandy? This was only one of the peccadillos that almost scuttled Churchill’s chance to become prime minister. He was not the first choice of King George VI nor the leaders of the government. But, as the author makes clear, when the fires were raging, and the bombs were falling, it was apparent that Churchill was the only choice. There is a reason this book is a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. There are very few history books that rise to “can’t-put-it-down” status. This is one of them.


RALPH STAYER, an avid reader and former CEO of Johnsonville Sausage, leads a book club in Naples with about a dozen other high-power friends. The group only reads non-fiction as a way to keep learning and sharpening the mind. Every month, Stayer shares the latest page-turners earning a permanent spot on his ever-expanding bookshelves.

Published: February 2021

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