Named as a Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2002, Ethical Ambition is now available in paperback. As one of America's most influential law professors, Derrick Bell has spent a lifetime helping students struggling to maintain a sense of integrity in the face of an overwhelming pressure to succeed at any price. The result of a meditation on Bell's own achievements, Ethical Ambition is a deeply affecting, uplifting, and thoughtful work that not only challenges us to face some of the most difficult questions that life presents, but also dares to offer solutions.
In this little guidebook, the controversial Bell shares his experiences of living an ethical life in the crucible of conflict, discrimination and protest. Bell notably walked away from a tenured position at Harvard Law School to protest the lack of minority women faculty members (he is now a visiting professor at NYU). When many asked how he could give up such a successful position, Bell responded that material success could not satisfy his desire to succeed ethically by pointing out the inequities of the system. Bell contends that religious faith and his religious community have provided the foundations for his desire to live an ethical life, and he urges those who would live with moral integrity to explore a variety of faiths. He stresses the importance of commitment in relationships, as well as the necessity of humility in serving others. Finally, he discusses a series of "ethical inspirations" ranging from Martin Luther King Jr. and Paul Robeson to Medgar Evers and Daniel Ellsberg. Bell's noble aspirations to lead a life of ethical ambition may inspire others. Yet his story overflows with such success, both ethical and professional, that he appears to live a charmed existence. Has he ever struggled with his own shortcomings and failures? Has he ever failed? Bell's schemes for living ethically seem more idealistic than realistic.