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The Audacity of Hope

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The Audacity of Hope

Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
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Senator Barack Obama reflects on the American ideals that led him into politics. Barack Obama has been hailed by voters of all stripes as a man of uncommon gifts and far-reaching vision. In THE...
Senator Barack Obama reflects on the American ideals that led him into politics. Barack Obama has been hailed by voters of all stripes as a man of uncommon gifts and far-reaching vision. In THE...
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Description-
  • Senator Barack Obama reflects on the American ideals that led him into politics. Barack Obama has been hailed by voters of all stripes as a man of uncommon gifts and far-reaching vision. In THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, he draws on his personal experience as a senator and lawyer, professor and father, Christian and skeptic, and finds a shared language about our nation’s values. At the same time he explores the gap between our American ideals and the ruthless imperatives of today’s politics.

 
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    Prologue

    It's been almost ten years since I first ran for political office. I was thirty-five at the time, four years out of law school, recently married, and generally impatient with life. A seat in the Illinois legislature had opened up, and several friends suggested that I run, thinking that my work as a civil rights lawyer, and contacts from my days as a community organizer, would make me a viable candidate. After discussing it with my wife, I entered the race and proceeded to do what every first-time candidate does: I talked to anyone who would listen. I went to block club meetings and church socials, beauty shops and barbershops. If two guys were standing on a corner, I would cross the street to hand them campaign literature. And everywhere I went, I'd get some version of the same two questions.

    "Where'd you get that funny name?"

    And then: "You seem like a nice enough guy. Why do you want to go into something dirty and nasty like politics?"

    I was familiar with the question, a variant on the questions asked of me years earlier, when I'd first arrived in Chicago to work in low-income neighborhoods. It signaled a cynicism not simply with politics but with the very notion of a public life, a cynicism that--at least in the South Side neighborhoods I sought to represent--had been nourished by a generation of broken promises. In response, I would usually smile and nod and say that I understood the skepticism, but that there was--and always had been--another tradition to politics, a tradition that stretched from the days of the country's founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done. It was a pretty convincing speech, I thought. And although I'm not sure that the people who heard me deliver it were similarly impressed, enough of them appreciated my earnestness and youthful swagger that I made it to the Illinois legislature.

    Six years later, when I decided to run for the United States Senate, I wasn't so sure of myself.

    By all appearances, my choice of careers seemed to have worked out. After spending my two terms during which I labored in the minority, Democrats had gained control of the state senate, and I had subsequently passed a slew of bills, from reforms of the Illinois death penalty system to an expansion of the state's health program for kids. I had continued to teach at the University of Chicago Law School, a job I enjoyed, and was frequently invited to speak around town. I had preserved my independence, my good name, and my marriage, all of which, statistically speaking, had been placed at risk the moment I set foot in the state capital.

    But the years had also taken their toll. Some of it was just a function of my getting older, I suppose, for if you are paying attention, each successive year will make you more intimately acquainted with all of your flaws--the blind spots, the recurring habits of thought that may be genetic or may be environmental, but that will almost certainly worsen with time, as surely as the hitch in your walk turns to pain in your hip. In me, one of those flaws had proven to be a chronic restlessness; an inability to appreciate, no matter how well things were going, those blessings that were right there in front of me. It's a flaw that is endemic to modern life, I think--endemic, too, in the American character--and one that is nowhere more evident than in the field of politics. Whether...
Reviews-
  • Jonathan Alter, Newsweek.com

    "He is one of the best writers to enter modern politics."

  • Michiko Katutani, New York Times "[Barack Obama] is that rare politician who can actually write- and write movingly and genuinely about himself...In these pages he often speaks to the reader as if he were an old friend from back in the day, salting policy recommendations with colorful asides about the absurdities of political life...[He] strives in these pages to ground his policy thinking in simple common sense...while articulating these venomous pre-election days, but also in these increasingly polarized and polarizing times."
  • Los Angeles Times "[Few] on the partisan landscape can discuss the word 'hope' in a political context and be regarded as the least bit sincere. Obama is such a man, and he proves it by employing a fresh and buoyant vocabulary to scrub away some of the toxins from contemporary political debate. Those polling categories that presume to define the vast chasm between us do not, Obama reminds us, add up to the sum of our concerns or hint at where our hearts otherwise intersect...Obama advances ordinary words like 'empathy', 'humility', 'grace' and 'balance' into the extraordinary context of 2006's hyper-agitated partisan politics. The effect is not only refreshing but also hopeful...As you might anticipate from a former civil lawyer and a university lecturer on constitutional law, Obama writes convincingly about race as well as the lofty place the Constitution holds in American life...He writes tenderly about family and knowingly about faith. Readers, no matter what their party affiliation, may experience the oddly uplifting sensation of comparing the everyday contemptuous view of politics that circulates so widely in our civic conversations with the practical idealism set down by this slender, smiling, 45-year-old former sate legislator who is included on virtually every credible list of future presidential contenders."
  • Washington Post Book World "What's impressive about Obama is an intelligence that his new books diplays in aubundance."
  • Chicago Tribune "An upbeat view of the country's potential and a political biography that concentrates on the senator's core values."
  • Gary Hart, The New York Times Book Review "The self-portrait is appealing. It presents a man of relative youth yet maturity, a wise observer of the human condition, a figure who possesses perseverance and writing skills that have flashes of grandeur. Obama also demonstrates a wry sense of humor...His particular upbringing gives him special insights into the transition of American politics in the 1960s and '70s from debates over economic principles to a focus on culture and morality, and into the divisiveness, polarization and incivility that accompanied this transition."
  • Elizabeth Taylor, Philadelphia Daily News "America's founders set a high standard for political writing, and most contemporary efforts fall woefully short. How nice, then, to have a politician who can write as well as U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. ... The Audacity of Hope ... is fascinating in its revelation of Obama as someone who considers and questions, rather than asserts and declares. In nine focused chapters, Obama shows himself an agile thinker. This is an idea book, not a public-policy primer."
  • Les Payne, Newsday "Not only is Obama a good writer, his mind is top-shelf, his heart tender."
  • Newton N. Minow, Chicago Tribune "A thoughtful, careful analysis of what needs to be done to preserve our freedoms in a time of terror."
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Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
Barack Obama
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