Given the distance between them, bringing King and Kennedy together in one book is a masterstroke that allows for a more complete analysis of two key figures in the American experience during the 1960s. While operating largely independently of each other, both men pushed hard on the envelope in pursuing their shared missions of advancing civil rights and condemning American involvement in the Vietnam War ... Knowing what's coming in 1968, Margolick still manages to keep the tension ratcheted up as he provides the highlights of their rollercoaster-like lives ... Momentum builds with each chapter as the dramatic peaks and valleys of the two martyrs' lives crescendo until the climactic shots ring out from the guns of James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhan. With those fateful blasts, hopes for a more enlightened country crashed and burned.
He devotes much of the book to a painstaking reconstruction of each man’s evolving moral and political consciousness — a dual narrative that reveals convergence but very little evidence of a developing relationship, either personal or public ... Even so, Margolick makes a strong case that the two leaders ended up in roughly the same place by 1968 ... With a half-century of historical perspective and Margolick’s help, we can now see the full potential for creative collaboration between the politician of promise and the dreamer. But, as the author of this carefully rendered book points out, the celebrated singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte — one observer who knew both men well — already recognized this potential during that fateful spring, describing 'a Kennedy-King alliance' as 'the right wing’s greatest fear.' ”
In his fascinating, elegiac account, Margolick reminds us there was never a relationship in the formal sense. King and Kennedy met only a handful of times, and maintained a minimal correspondence. Yet by the time of their deaths, separated by just nine weeks, they had come to be seen as champions of America’s underclass ... Is there really an equivalence between King’s activism and Kennedy’s stumping, and if so, what about all the other remarks delivered by congressmen on the subject?
Margolick is a shrewd pointillist with a keen eye for the telling detail, the revealing scene and the memorable quotation ... Although Margolick clearly admires both King and Kennedy, his commendable urge to create a realistic, intimate portrait of the two prompts him to surface actions and statements that will make devotees wince ... Impressive in certain ways, The Promise and the Dream is deficient in others. With a book of 400 pages, by a serious journalist grappling with significant, contentious issues, a reader expects a deeper, more comprehensive treatment than Margolick sometimes delivers ... Friendship arises from a mysterious alchemy. No one can reasonably expect its absence or presence to be fully explained. It is not too much to expect, however, a more rigorous effort than what one receives in The Promise and the Dream.”
Margolick brings the same insight and cleareyed analysis that he has brought to his storied biographies and racially potent historical analyses. Although the lives of both men have been covered in detail, Margolick does a fine job of not only portraying crucial events—with the help of new interviews and newly unsealed histories and documents—but also plowing through the misty romanticism that still surrounds these men ... The most telling line of this well-crafted and timely story comes from Lewis as well: 'They were friends, and didn’t even know that they were friends.' ”