That is what Walt Harrington asked himself each day. As a staff writer for the Washington Post Magazine, he had the task of profiling people, getting under their skin to discover just what it is that makes them tick. Sometimes the people were famous, like Kelly McGillis, Jerry Falwell or George Bush. Sometimes they were less than famous, like the father whose son was kidnapped or the fundamentalist family from Alabama that temporarily won a court ban on “secular humanist” books in the local public schools.
In American Profiles, Mr. Harrington lifts the masks of celebrity and obscurity to reveal the lives of singular men and women. As you vacation with then Vice President George H. W. Bush at Walker’s Point, Maine, you will learn of his most intimate hopes for his grandchildren. As you travel with Jesse Jackson to Mozambique, Africa, you will discover how the “President of Black America” still struggles for the respect denied him as a child. Mr. Harrington shows a family trying to hold itself together after a son’s suicide and reveals the true “smarts” of Gary Poe, a retarded man who can’t add numbers in his head but who knows a lot about human dignity. In short, you will get to know all these people from the inside out. You will delight in their achievements, and you will be touched by their strength and frailty. So get ready to hit the campaign trail with George Bush. Return to high school with teenage genius Even Sherbrooke, lnger backstage with beautiful actress Kelly McGillis, spend the wee hours of the morning with nocturnal satanist Anton LaVey. You’ll come away reminded that the experiences of every person’s life, whether heroic or trivial, tell a profound and unique human story.