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William Jennings Bryan: A Difference Maker Review by Lori Hooten

Corinne Livesay
Bryan College
721 Bryan Drive
Dayton, TN 37321

William Jennings Bryan is a name that is familiar to many but perhaps his life is less so. His life was lived in service to others, to make their lives richer, fuller, and better. Through his political, religious, and academic endeavors, there is much to be gleaned from the life of William Jennings Bryan. William Jennings Bryan: A Difference Maker is the biography of his life, written by Corinne Livesay. She is familiar with the life and legacy of Mr. Bryan from her own research and from the perspective of a lifelong educator who is the first lady of Bryan College. 

Mrs. Livesay looked at the life of William Jennings Bryan in five distinct areas. William Jennings Bryan: A Difference Maker is not a chronological look at his life but rather a look at the areas in which he secured great influence. The five areas are 

  1. Overview and Beginnings - about his life and upbringing to prepare him for a life of service
  2. Victories and Defeats - about his political career, including multiple runs for the Presidency
  3. Gifted Communicator - about his gifted speaking ability and long time as a public speaker
  4. Bryan's Last Decade - about the specific issues Mr. Bryan addressed during his last ten years
  5. Bryan Remembered - about Mr. Bryan's place in history

Born shortly before the Civil War and living until 1925, Mr. Bryan lived through some of the most significant changes for America. Mr. Bryan was a gifted speaker and was highly influential in that position. Speaking across the country for decades, he stated issues and beliefs in clear and concise ways that the average American understood and agreed with. The thematic organization of his biography allows the reader to follow one thread of Mr. Bryan's life through, seeing it grow and influence. 

Many will know William Jennings Bryan's name from the famous Scope's Trial in 1925. Mr. Bryan had a profound influence in the setting of the trial, as evolution was one of the causes which he was speaking against in his last decade. Many of the famous speeches Mr. Bryan made have been recorded in writing and these include one intended for the Scope's Trial. Two speeches are recorded in the appendix of the biography, including the Scope's Trial speech. This famous trial is another example of the great influence Mr. Bryan had and is detailed in the biography. 

William Jennings Bryan: A Difference Maker by Corrine Livesay is 208 pages. This hard-backed biography is beautifully written and highlighted with black, white, and brown tones. It contains a unique collection of 125 photos of the times, places, and people from Mr. Bryan's life and is punctuated throughout with quotes from his speeches and writings. Featuring many tables and charts, the material is well organized and presented in a clear and concise manner. This high-quality biography is a pleasure to read while enriching knowledge and understanding about William Jennings Bryan, arguably one of the 20th century's most influential men. 

-Product review by Lori Hooten, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December 2019