By Shelby Coffey

‘Choose your heroes wisely,’ says the legendary investor Warren Buffett.

One of the delights of Congressman Don Bonker’s exuberant autobiography is that he shares the stories of his heroes and why they measured up.

This book is, in one sense, an adventure story of a life spent in pursuit of the best of public service, from Capitol Hill to Moscow to America’s Western wilderness.

It is also a tale about the pursuit of high personal values ‘in the arena’ –where politics and business, ambition and gain tangle, under the relentless glare of media.

Don Bonker starts with a wry take on his brief stint as a dance instructor, which gives the book its title – and its spirit.

That spirit is quite evident among the legion of fans he has collected along the way that led to Congress, elected with the ‘Watergate babies’ class of 1974…to two fascinating if disappointing runs for the Senate…and then to giving key advice to Russian opponents of Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin strongman tightened his grip on power.

In person the Bonker spirit is contagious. He has a Kennedyesque shock of hair and an infectious toothy grin… (As one columnist wrote, whenever the Kennedys get together, ‘a toothstakes erupts.’)

His conversation is ebullient, beginning often with a well-placed compliment…then off to commentary on the day’s astonishing events in The Swamp, as Washington is nicknamed…

Then he is on to business…quick, careful and considerate as he makes a request or points out the significance of an upcoming event.

He is a man of two Washingtons, the District of Columbia where he inspires smiles and Washington state which always inspires him to smile.

He is a man of faith – often struggling with being both a Democrat and Christian – which he details in this good book.

He helped bring the National Prayer Breakfast to international prominence.

And he has been a key, if quiet, force for others of faith who contend in public life.

Through this amusing and trenchant memoir, his wife Carolyn is ever gracious and insightful, – a great and good woman who helps to steer the dancer through all the right moves.

By the end of the book we see what Don Bonker values – integrity, moral authority, principles– as well the virtues of humor, kindness, and going the extra mile –and then some.

And just as he shines the light on his heroes, we see how, step-by-step he became one.

Though he would shy away from that characterization, it’s an obvious call for those who have been lucky enough to know this eminent man.

With this fine book, more will be able to join that legion.

Shelby Coffey III

Vice Chairman, Newseum

Former Editor, Los Angeles Times

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