The definitive biography of a distinguished public servant, who as US Secretary of Labor, Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of State, was pivotal in steering the great powers toward the end of the Cold War.
Deftly solving critical but intractable national and global problems was the leitmotif of George Pratt Shultz's life. No one at the highest levels of the United States government did it better or with greater consequence in the last half of the 20th century, often against withering resistance. His quiet, effective leadership altered the arc of history. While political, social, and cultural dynamics have changed profoundly since Shultz served at the commanding heights of American power in the 1970s and 1980s, his legacy and the lessons of his career have even greater meaning now that the Shultz brand of conservatism has been almost erased in the modern Republican Party.
This book, from longtime New York Times Washington reporter Philip Taubman, restores the modest Shultz to his central place in American history. Taubman reveals Shultz's gift for forging relationships with people and then harnessing the rapport to address national and international challenges, under his motto "trust is the coin of the realm"—as well as his difficulty standing up for his principles, motivated by a powerful sense of loyalty that often trapped him in inaction. Based on exclusive access to Shultz's personal papers, housed in a sealed archive at the Hoover Institution, In the Nation's Service offers a remarkable insider account of the behind-the-scenes struggles of the statesman who played a pivotal role in unwinding the Cold War.
About the author
Philip Taubman is a lecturer at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation. Before joining CISAC, Mr. Taubman worked at The New York Times as a reporter and editor for nearly 30 years, specializing in national security issues, including intelligence and defense policies and operations. He is author of The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb (2012) and Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage (2003).
"This is a masterpiece. Philip Taubman, one of the great reporters and editors from The New York Times, has dug forever and found the real, authentic George Shultz, one of the true peacemakers of the 20th century. Essentially positive but not avoiding some well-documented criticisms, this biography reminds me of David McCullough's classic biographies of Presidents John Adams and Harry Truman—defining and sure-footed in every paragraph."
—Bob Woodward, #1 bestselling author of Peril and Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate
"The nuanced diplomacy of George Shultz at the end of the Cold War was a major reason that 45-year conflict ended with a whimper rather than the nuclear bang we had all feared. In his biography about Shultz, Philip Taubman masterfully explains the many keys to Shultz's success, including his giant intellect and understated ability to build personal relationships with his interlocutors in the Soviet Union. In the Nation's Service is a must read for those interested in the life and times of one of our nation's foremost secretaries of state."
—James A. Baker, III, 61st U.S. Secretary of State
"Philip Taubman has written an outstanding book about the extraordinary life and public service of Secretary Shultz. As Taubman describes in these pages, Shultz possessed the rare ability to build consensus among people with diverse and sometimes deeply opposing views, exhibiting an agile diplomacy that allowed him to aid in the peaceful end of the Cold War. Taubman's account deftly captures the character of this American icon, the halls of power in which he served the nation, and the consequential one hundred years in which he lived."
—Condoleezza Rice, 66th US Secretary of State, Tad and Dianne Taube Director, Hoover Institution
"Taubman makes a persuasive case that Shultz was one of the most distinguished American officials of the last half century."
—H.W. Brands, author of The Last Campaign: Sherman, Geronimo and the War for America and Reagan: The Life
"Philip Taubman's new biography of Shultz, In the Nation's Service, offers a more complicated assessment of the well-known government official and of the modern history of the GOP. Shultz's saga of triumph and turmoil offers a reminder that the brutal moral conditions Republican administrations impose on those who work in them were not just confined to Trump, but have been manifest all along."
"Philip Taubman's In the Nation's Service: The Life and Times of George P. Shultz adds a surprising new dimension to the Reagan saga. Through the eyes of Shultz, the secretary of state, Taubman portrays the Reagan administration as swamped and nearly paralyzed by disorganization and infighting. Cabinet members and White House aides were constantly at each other's throats. This will come as no surprise to students of the Reagan presidency, but Taubman, a longtime reporter and editor at the New York Times, introduces a new and highly credible source. [Taubman's research] provides valuable new insight into the Reagan years, and he gives Shultz credit for holding things together."
—David E. Hoffman, The Washington Post
"Taubman's book is remarkable in many ways. [I]t gives Shultz the credit he deserves in guiding Reagan's foreign policy, especially in ending the Soviet empire, that had been reserved for just Reagan, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, President George H.W. Bush, and his top diplomat James Baker."
—Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner
"The humanity and human touch of Shultz and his biographer emerge on nearly every page."
—Walter Clemens, New York Journal of Books
"Taubman has written an outstanding biography of George Shultz, both comprehensive and consistently engaging. Taubman's biography excels at conveying Shultz's human characteristics—trustworthiness, solidity, fortitude, plain-spoken directness, quick intelligence, ambition—which brought him to the summit of the American political system and made him such an invaluable player in it."
—Gabriel Schoenfeld, The American Purpose
"Mr. Taubman has given us a distinctly American story: A young man from a middle-income family in New Jersey, refined by education at Princeton and early service in uniform, comes to help guide U.S. foreign affairs through a perilous world moment. Shultz's spirit of service and loyalty is regrettably no longer dominant in American diplomacy or bureaucracy."
—Kate Bachelder Odell, Wall Street Journal
"As capably captured by Philip Taubman in his official biography of the 60th secretary of state, In the Nation's Service, Shultz had a front-row view of both the Reagan administration and the end of the Cold War. Indeed, he was an active player in it, instrumental in directing Reagan's more cooperative approach to the Soviet Union and helped along by a willing partner in Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev."
—Samuel Sweeney, Foreign Policy
"Taubman's excellent biography deserves great praise for highlighting the enormous debt of gratitude the country owes to George Shultz, not only for his herculean efforts to bring an end to the Cold War but also his many other achievements 'In the Nation's Service.'"
—Ambassador Gary Grappo, The Cipher Brief