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edited by Kelly H. Johnson

The journey from adolescence to adulthood is a momentous time in every person’s life. Never has this transition been more challenging than it is today. In addition to the perennial trials of peer pressure, hormones and popularity, young men and women must now grapple with a media-saturated culture that places enormous emphasis on physical appeal, material wealth and celebrity status. And, thanks to the growing number and reach of social media platforms, the cultural noise is only getting louder, making it exponentially more difficult to find reliable answers to life’s largest and most meaningful questions.

Stepping in to help fill this void, A Better Man features first-person narratives from some of the most respected and engaging men in America today. With sincerity, humor and directness, they share their experience and advice on courage, service, anger, respect, and a host of other topics. Their stories speak to our common humanity and so have the power to impact young men and women alike, inspiring them to imagine larger possibilities as they seek to define adulthood for themselves. For example . . .

Civil rights icon Andrew Young talks about what happened at the Lorraine Motel in the moments before Dr. King was shot . . . and what he learned from that event.

NBA Hall of Fame Basketball player Dominique Wilkins explains why it’s important to treat others with respect, do what you know is right and stand up for yourself.

Four-star Admiral Leighton Smith talks about learning the lesson of responsibility (and avoiding the life of a pig farmer!).

An open letter from one generation to the next, A Better Man offers young people some much-needed light on the journey to becoming who they were meant to be—showing all of us another way. A better way.

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Press Kit


Formats: Hardcover

Pages: 292

ISBN: 978-1-9399302-6-2

Release Date: 9/14/2014

Meet the Editor

Kelly H. Johnson is an attorney, writer, and the mother/stepmother of five sons and one daughter. She holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from the College of William and Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law. She has written for both local and national parenting magazines, and her work appears in the compilations, The Imperfect Mom Candid Confessions of Mothers Living in the Real World (Doubleday); It’s a Girl Women Writers on Raising Daughters (Seal Press); and Love Wins (SmileyBooks). Kelly lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Fred, and their children, who outnumber them three to one.


“It’s one thing to tell [someone] how to act and another thing entirely to show him. A Better Man does the latter through poignant stories about real people, told by the very people who lived them. This book provides lessons that pave the way to a newer, brighter future for men who will not only achieve great things in their lives, but also in the lives of the better men they will raise and mentor. Thank you, Kelly Johnson, for giving parents, educators and young people a book that will positively influence the lives of our nation’s men for generations to come.” —Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys and The Purpose of Boys 

“We are a nation in constant motion toward fulfilling the aspiration of equality. The life lessons from these amazing men are a true gift to the next generation of young people of all races, all nationalities, all walks of life. Kelly Johnson has compiled a treasure trove of honest and intimate experiences that will open eyes and hearts . . . and inspire anyone who reads it—man, woman, parent, or child—to take bold steps to better themselves and the world.” —Doug Shipman, executive director, Center for Civil and Human Rights

A Better Man is a splendid compilation of interviews and essays of men who are role models for all of us. [It] could well make a difference in the lives of young males . . . facing the challenges of manhood. Also, I am confident young women would be motivated and inspired by the great stories of the distinguished men whose experiences could be defined as appropriate for feminine growth and development.” —Frances Bartlett Kinne, Ph.D., Chancellor Emeritus and past president, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Florida

“It is my honor to recommend the book A Better Man; its author, Kelly Johnson; and any program that introduces the book to young men and women. A Better Man is teeming with relevant, inspiring life lessons for our youth today. [The] amazing men in the book make a powerful impact and bring these lessons to life.” —Elizabeth K. Armbruster, principal, Mills E. Godwin High School, Henrico, Virginia

“I believe this book, A Better Man, has the potential to have a powerful impact . . . .The selection of men interviewed is itself so diverse in age, occupation, and ethnicity that the appeal is very broad. [It] is a powerful volume for our youth.” —George F. Towery, principal, Cameron Elementary School, Alexandria, Virginia 

“I recommend [A Better Man] highly to all high schools, not only for males but for females alike. The important message it sends cannot be matched by any other I have encountered. Thank you so much Kelly Harrington Johnson! Well done!” —Shannon Poole Grable, counselor, North Brunswick High School, North Carolina

“I asked my [7th grade] students if they would write their thoughts about the book and its message. Here are a few of their comments: ‘This book is inspiring to not just boys but girls too! A Better Man is a wonderful book!’ . . . ‘It changes your perspective on some things and makes you think of how you’ve been living your life . . . and it also says that even though you’re ordinary you can do extraordinary things.’ . . . This book lifts the reader up and makes us believe in the power we each hold within.” —Diana Barron, seventh grade teacher, Richmond, Virginia 

“[A Better Man] is an inspiring collection of essays and interviews . . . . I also believe that this book can be a help to some who are given the opportunity to create a better life after having gone the wrong direction. For that reason, I have recommended that copies of A Better Man be purchased for our court for use in a new re-entry program . . . designed to have judges and others work directly with small numbers of federal prisoners upon their entry into post-prison supervised release.” —Judge W. Harold Albritton, Senior United States District Judge, Montgomery, Alabama

“As a Navy chaplain for thirty-three years and a former Chief of Chaplains the last three of those years, I have spent considerable time with young sailors and marines . . . [A]ll too often it is apparent that there was no guiding hand during their formative years. Using their own experiences, and with a desire to be a positive influence for many who, until now, have been neglected, these heroes [in A Better Man] tell life stories and share positive values with a love and admiration for our nation’s young men.” —Rear Admiral Byron Holderby, Chaplain, United States Navy (Ret.)

“There is no question that young men are negatively affected by the fractured, incoherent images of manhood so prevalent in the media today. Computer downloads, streaming videos, incessant cell phones, and iPods all contribute to a relentless onslaught from which our boys can find little relief. Until now. In her new book, A Better Man, Kelly Johnson has brought together twenty-six true American heroes and asked them to share some of their thoughts and insights on a host of topics. The result is a book of timeless wisdom that offers young men the unique opportunity to hear from great men their stories, the lessons they’ve learned, and the truth about being a man. It is a book whose time has come.” —Captain Robert C. Hurd, USN (Ret.), Congressional Liaison, U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps

“There is a disquieting trend in our society towards accepting less than our best and it’s bled over into the outlook we have for the boys we are raising into men. A Better Man reminds us not to settle but to encourage our sons, our nephews, our brothers, and our neighbors to cultivate within themselves those qualities that make them better men: men of drive, honor, compassion, and integrity. Every young man would greatly benefit from the lessons learned in this book. Its positive impact will be felt for generations to come.” —Ambassador Andrew J. Young, Jr.

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