Author speaks at book festival about nation at prayer
By Bob Schwarz
When his father died suddenly in 1997, James P. Moore traveled frequently back to Ford City, Pa., the town just north of Pittsburgh where he had grown up and his mother still lived. While there, he took long walks on the local mountain trails.
“I was thinking of course about my father, I was thinking about how beautiful the countryside was, and I began to think about prayer,” Moore said.
One thing led to another, and Moore began an eight-year project of research and writing that culminated in the November 2005 publication of his book “One Nation Under God: The History of Prayer in America.”
He [spoke last week] at the Charleston Civic Center as part of the sixth annual West Virginia Book Festival.
In 1997, Moore was founder and CEO of AmeriTrade International, an investment banking firm – now called ATI – where he remains, less actively involved in day-to-day affairs. He was teaching classes at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Finance. He had been an assistant secretary of commerce under President Reagan.
“There was nothing in my career that would have led anyone to believe I would write this book,” he said Thursday, speaking from the nation's capital, where he now teaches at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.
Published by Doubleday, Moore's book offers a 467-page history of the nation at prayer, starting with the Native Americans, explorers and early settlers and working its way through to President Bill Clinton and the two Presidents Bush. In between, he takes a look at such fascinating figures as Thomas Merton and legendary baseball slugger Babe Ruth.
Babe Ruth's prayer life? “It wasn't very much until the end of his life when he realized he was dying of cancer,” Moore said. “Then he filled his hospital room with statues and crosses and crucifixes and rosaries, anything that spoke to what he believed would be the hereafter, and would somehow help him pray and bring him closer to God.”
The book is in its fourth printing and approaching 100,000 in hardback sales, Moore said. Random House has the book out on audio with Moore, actor/singer Ben Vereen, U.S. Sen. John McCain and others sharing the reading chores.
A paperback edition will come out in late spring about the time the Public Broadcasting System has scheduled a related television miniseries, “American Prayer: The Spiritual History of the Nation.”
Moore, who grew up in a Catholic home, is working on two more books. The first is tentatively titled “The Treasury of American Prayer,” a compilation of prayers from all walks of life. The second is tentatively titled “Don't Give Up Hope.”
“That's based on the premise that America and its people have been going through a rough patch and that we're going to get through it because Americans have always possessed attributes like decency, hard work, and spirituality,” Moore said.
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