The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint for America's Revival

Image of The Courage to Be Free: Florida's Blueprint for America's Revival
Release Date: 
February 28, 2023
Broadside Books
Reviewed by: 

This book is written by a high-profile governor who might run for president someday. Thus, the content is political. The author’s supporters will cheer and applaud; his detractors will boo and throw rocks. But neither group is the book’s intended audience.

That audience is people wondering, Who is Ron DeSantis, anyway? Why do folks love him or hate him? Why is he bucking the system and making his state so different from others? Is he a power-hungry egotist or a brave leader? And why does he think that the Florida way is appropriate for everyone else?

Mr. DeSantis answers these questions lucidly, rationally, and passionately. Whether you agree or disagree is beside the point. You’ll get the answers straight from the horse’s mouth, not in sound bites or slanted coverage from the traditional or social media.

Yes, DeSantis wrote the whole book. No ghostwriters or “as told to” here. Only the publisher knows how much editing took place during production, but given DeSantis’ strong personality, it’s unlikely his voice and opinions got changed. He speaks for himself, at the same time defining on whose behalf he’s also speaking and acting.

True to the political way, he calls his opponents names and points accusatory fingers. But throughout the book, he qualifies his position before, during, or after he points. Whatever you end up believing about Ron DeSantis as a person and a politician, you can trust that he’s true to himself and his ideals, and the numerous, diverse people he has chosen to represent.

Enough autobiography is included to establish his frame of reference and motivations. They come from a mix of working-class upbringing in Florida, student athletics (primarily baseball), advanced education at Yale and Harvard Law School, a medal-earning stint in the Navy as a judge advocate including service in Iraq, then opportune but unplanned entry into politics, with the aim of actualizing change through leadership and conviction.

The book is divided into chapters featuring each major transition. Then, once DeSantis entered politics, especially the governorship, the chapters focus on the key controversial issues he’s been involved with: education, economics, COVID response, Constitutional law, and ideological battles.

For all subjects, he presents history leading up to his specific decisions and his reasons for acting.

The publisher, Broadside Books—an imprint of “Big Five” traditional house HarperCollins—describes itself as specializing in “conservative nonfiction, spanning the full range of right-of-center thought and opinion. . . . to create a forum for smart, serious conservative ideas.”

The Courage to Be Free, on one hand, reflects that description. On the other hand, DeSantis reaches farther, addressing Americans trying to decide for themselves what to think and do in these complex, contentious times.

The book not only offers a model for how a government can operate a free and prosperous society, extrapolating from state to national scale; it also shows ways for individuals to wrap their heads around difficult choices and decisions, helping them prioritize their values and stand tall against gales of contrary opinion.

In that respect, the book provides food for thought across the political spectrum.