• The Good American

  • The Epic Life of Bob Gersony, the U.S. Government's Greatest Humanitarian
  • By: Robert D. Kaplan
  • Narrated by: Eric Jason Martin
  • Length: 17 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (53 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Revenge of Geography comes a sweeping yet intimate story of the most influential humanitarian you’ve never heard of - Bob Gersony, who spent four decades in crisis zones around the world.

“One of the best accounts examining American humanitarian pursuits over the past 50 years.... With still greater challenges on the horizon, we will need to find and empower more people like Bob Gersony - both idealistic and pragmatic - who can help make the world a more secure place.” (The Washington Post)

In his long career as an acclaimed journalist covering the “hot” moments of the Cold War and its aftermath, best-selling author Robert D. Kaplan often found himself crossing paths with Bob Gersony, a consultant for the US State Department whose quiet dedication and consequential work made a deep impression on Kaplan.

Gersony, a high school dropout later awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, conducted on-the-ground research for the U.S. government in virtually every war and natural-disaster zone in the world. In Thailand, Central and South America, Sudan, Chad, Mozambique, Rwanda, Gaza, Bosnia, North Korea, Iraq, and beyond, Gersony never flinched from entering dangerous areas that diplomats could not reach, sometimes risking his own life. Gersony’s behind-the scenes fact-finding, which included interviews with hundreds of refugees and displaced persons from each war zone and natural-disaster area, often challenged the assumptions and received wisdom of the powers that be, on both the left and the right. In nearly every case, his advice and recommendations made American policy at once smarter and more humane - often dramatically so.

In Gersony, Kaplan saw a powerful example of how American diplomacy should be conducted. In a work that exhibits Kaplan’s signature talent for combining travel and geography with sharp political analysis, The Good American tells Gersony’s powerful life story. Set during the State Department’s golden age, this is a story about the loneliness, sweat, and tears and the genuine courage that characterized Gersony’s work in far-flung places. It is also a celebration of ground-level reporting: a page-turning demonstration, by one of our finest geopolitical thinkers, of how getting an up-close, worm’s-eye view of crises and applying sound reason can elicit world-changing results.

©2020 Robert D. Kaplan (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“One of the best accounts examining American humanitarian pursuits over the past fifty years.... With still greater challenges on the horizon, we will need to find and empower more people like Bob Gersony - both idealistic and pragmatic - who can help make the world a more secure place.” (Daniel Runde, The Washington Post)

“[Gersony’s] story is inspiring because it affirms the possibility that facts, objectively researched and dispassionately presented, can change policy for the better.... Having seen firsthand how Mr. Gersony improved policy and saved lives, I am grateful that this book will make his example better known. May it become an inspiration for others.” (Paul Wolfowitz, The Wall Street Journal)

“A book to remind us that America has been, and can be again, a force for good in the world.... Time after time, [Gersony] shows how doing good - curbing human rights abuses, aiding refugees, providing relief supplies - turned out to be in America’s interest. (Max Boot, The Washington Post)

What listeners say about The Good American

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Outstanding

Kaplan at his best. Fascinating story. Stellar reading performance. This has it all guys - highly recommend.

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Sometimes over the top

An excellent and often exciting story that might have been even better without the hagiography and too frequent stereotypes of NGOs and bureaucrats.

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Kaplan fans this one is another winner

Pulling together politics, anthropology, demography, and topography this is a tour of the world America touched from the Vietnam war to Mexico via Africa and Asia and the ME ending well into the 2000s. The focus is the intersection of geo-political interest and humanitarian aid. The hero is Bob Gersony. A man who follows the evidence not any preconceived ideology.
My only quibble and it comes as no surprise is that Kaplan allows his disenchantment with israel to taint the brief section on the WB and Gaza. So, for instance, you get the a reference to Tel Aviv as a settler city. But no matter — Kaplan is almost always worth reading and this book is a gem for so is another assimilated alienated Jew, Bob Gersony . A man deserving of our admiration.

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One of Kaplan's best

I became a fan of Robert Kaplan's writing when I read "Balkan Ghosts" in 1994 while deployed with the US Navy in support of operations in the former republics of Yugoslavia. I've read almost everything he's published since then. It suffices to say I find his work important to those that the many geopolitical events that affect national security.
The Good American, includes all of the superb writing and analysis on many important world events dating back to the 1970s. what makes this book so unique is that the participant in those events is not Kaplan, rather it is Robert Gersony. Gersony, is someone I had never heard of, but after reading this book I think everyone should know of him.
Kaplan, makes a compelling case that Gersony is the US government's greatest humanitarian. Kaplan supports his writing with dozens of interviews with Gersony and the volumes of reports he generated in his work as a contractor for USAID, and DOS. Kaplan also draws from interviews with former ambassadors, State department workers, and humanitarian relief workers. More than anything, the facts on the ground in countries, to numerous to mention, where Gersony worked, speak for themselves.
Robert Gersony took great risks to discover the truth and he reported the truth to power. His life is evidence that one man dedicated to finding the truth and a deep concern for human rights can make a difference. I'm glad I got to know a little bit about Robert Gersony in the pages of Kaplan's book. Read it, and you'll be glad too.

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Great biography, biased journalism

Amazing story about Robert Gersony's effort to develop a sensible American foreign policy. If the author's off-hand characterizations such as, "leftist revolutionaries and right wing death squads" don't bother you, you will love it. If you feel that a real journalist would use "leftist revolutionaries and right wing reactionaries" or "left wing murderers and right wing death squads," you might agree with me that Kaplan should go back to journalism school.

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  • Rui Ribeiro
  • 10-08-21

Compelling and interesting listen

This is a thoroughly interesting and well written book, on the humantirian missions of Bob Gersony. He led quite a interesting life, having been through some of the biggest humanitarian crisis, from the 1960s until the 1st century.
The narrative is very interesting, even if slightly stereotyped, but words are not minced, to characterize the intevenients in the situations Gersony was present throughout his very interesting career. It definitely brings more information and clarity to some of the humanitarian crisis that occurred in the last decades of the 20th century and the first of the 21st.
The narration is quite good and it helps to make this a very interesting and recommended reading.