The past two years have been a time of both fear and hope in the United States. This title from the ongoing Reference Shelf series by A.W. Wilson captures these sentiments through major speeches from national figures centered on five pivotal issues. The first is what began as a wide-open Presidential race. The opening speech by Newt Gingrich offers a history lesson about the Lincoln-Douglass debates to criticize current media-driven campaign practices and to suggest a way to explore candidates’ views on important issues in a more critical and probing way. Speeches by all the major candidates—not only Obama and McCain, but Clinton, Romney, Paul and the Democratic and Republican parties’ vice-presidential nominees-- reflect critical philosophies and messages that were reiterated throughout the campaign. The second chapter, “Race in America,” offers as its centerpiece President Obama’s speech, “A More Perfect Union,” in which he rejects the controversial views expressed by Jeremiah Wright but reaffirms his commitment to his church and his belief that the U.S. can move beyond its racist past, offering his Presidential bid as proof. Wright’s response to Obama’s speech follows and it represents not so much a self-defense but a short history of African-American churches that contextualizes the controversial statements from which Obama felt it necessary to distance himself. The third topic, the mortgage meltdown, is analyzed from the perspectives of key players in this event and includes speeches from a mortgage banker, a woman defaulting on her loan, President Bush, Senator John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. This section concludes with a speech by former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan in which he provides an explanation for the crisis and some broad remedies for avoiding such an event in the future—a speech given before his admission in a congressional hearing that his own views about regulation and oversight may have been “partially wrong.” Speeches for and against gay marriage make up the fourth topic, including one in support by Mildred Loving, whose mixed race marriage led to a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that such prohibitions violated the fourteenth amendment. The final chapter focuses on the obesity problem in the U.S.; noteworthy among the speeches is the one by an FTC official who describes the role that food advertising through a variety of media has played in childhood obesity and what the FTC is doing in response. This volume captures some of the most important ideas around key issues from the past year, providing valuable primary source documents for current research. Recommended for high school, public and university libraries.