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The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

The Audacity of Hope (edition 2006)

by Barack Obama

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6,478135592 (3.82)162
Title:The Audacity of Hope
Authors:Barack Obama
Info:Three Rivers (2006), Edition: First Edition, Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama


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Showing 1-5 of 127 (next | show all)
Listening to this, I understand why so many voted for Obama and why I did not and will not. It was worth the read for that reason if nothing else. ( )
  tangentrider | Aug 27, 2015 |
I should have waited for his inevitable post-presidential biography. Tiring blandness. ( )
  lakeview1970 | Aug 23, 2015 |
I found the story President Obama told personally inspiring. ( )
  bmetzler | Aug 10, 2015 |
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Vintage)
Better late than never, but obviously should have read this book when published. If you want to know what a candidate is going to do, read his book. But I'm not sure how true that is for this one. You definitely know he's going to push through health care reform with a push toward universal coverage, but that's the only obvious policy in this book.

I should say that reading this book would have lowered my esteem of Candidate Obama. It was evident to me from interviews he gave through the campaign that he was very knowledgeable about health care, philosophy, and even some economics relative to other politicians. I liked his intelligence and pragmatic introspection very much. It does not show up in this book. The book shifts between Obama's sociological musings, autobiographical reflection, and some stories from his political life. These are roughly divided into categories: "Faith, Race, Our Constitution," etc. but there is a lot of spillover.

Obama begins by bemoaning the state of politics, and says he aimed his Senate campaign at people who didn't fit neatly into stereotypes:

"I imagine the white Southerner who growing up heard his dad talk about niggers this and niggers that but who has struck up a friendship with the black guys at the office and is trying to teach his own son different, who thinks discrimination is wrong but doesn’t see why the son of a black doctor should get admitted into law school ahead of his own son. Or the former Black Panther who decided to go into real estate, bought a few buildings in the neighborhood, and is just as tired of the drug dealers in front of those buildings as he is of the bankers who won’t give him a loan to expand his business. There’s the middle-aged feminist who still mourns her abortion, and the Christian woman who paid for her teenager’s abortion, and the millions of waitresses and temp secretaries and nurse’s assistants and Wal-Mart associates who hold their breath every single month in the hope that they’ll have enough money to support the children that they did bring into the world.
I imagine they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point."

But he seems to put too much faith in the rationality of the voters, while at the same time admitting that people mostly vote for their "Red Team" or "Blue Team" regardless of the merits or policies. Then he himself repeats the broken record of the Democratic stereotypes, blasting certain Republican policies without examining either the merits or economic analysis behind them. He resorts to the same old "they're sticking it to labor" or "giving tax breaks to millionaires," etc. Even writing in late 2007, he brings out the canard of "Bush squandered the surplus"-- the surplus mythology has been debunked by even very left-leaning Democratic economists. He has some straw men of the religious right that he tears down--namely that most white religious conservatives want to establish a theocracy. That is disappointing.

Where Obama differs from "stereotypical" Democrat in this book is his praising Reagan for having a point-- that government programs had overreached and needed to be scaled back or reexamined. For praising Clinton and Republican's welfare reform in the 1990s and even mentioning the "failures" of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. He advocates EITC expansion and doesn't mention minimum wage as that important.

He agrees with social conservatives about "values" and "faith" being important in helping prevent teen pregnancy and promoting marriage. For hailing all the progress that has been made in reducing racial inequality. Much in this book showed up again in his DNC acceptance speech in Colorado, a speech I liked.

He states his belief in competition, free markets, and entrepreneurship. But later in the book he criticizes gains from trade. He espouses himself as a Hamiltonian, or a late 1800s Republican (a la Lincoln)-- a strong national government is needed to protect and grow industry (tariffs, subsidies where needed) and Progressive labor policies are needed to strengthen unions and raise wages and working conditions at the bottom. I would say Obama has lived up to this in office, he has often trumpeted his "pro-business" policies, which I would argue favor the large monopolies much more than a wide base-- they're not pro-market policies.

More frustrating is the naivete found in paragraphs like the one below. "We should be guided by what works" as if there is broad agreement on what "works"(!):

"America can’t compete with China and India simply by cutting costs and shrinking government—unless we’re willing to tolerate a drastic decline in American living standards, with smog-choked cities and beggars lining the streets. Nor can America compete simply by erecting trade barriers and raising the minimum wage—unless we’re willing to confiscate all the world’s computers.
But our history should give us confidence that we don’t have to choose between an oppressive, government-run economy and a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism. It tells us that we can emerge from great economic upheavals stronger, not weaker. Like those who came before us, we should be asking ourselves what mix of policies will lead to a dynamic free market and widespread economic security, entrepreneurial innovation and upward mobility. And we can be guided throughout by Lincoln’s simple maxim: that we will do collectively, through our government, only those things that we cannot do as well or at all individually and privately.
In other words, we should be guided by what works."

That paragraph is about the emptiest political rhetoric I've read.

Most disappointing to me are his comments about inner city poverty and unemployment. Instead of looking at the benefits of gentrification, he advocates more government spending on vague housing renovation and laying fiber optic cable--only for the hope of it increasing the chance that the unemployed men in these areas can do those jobs as unskilled labor.

Obama gives some very broad overviews of his political campaigns. When Obama gets to the U.S. Senate he meets with Robert Byrd, who lectures him on the importance of studying the history and rules of the Senate. Byrd claims to be "saving the Republic." This inspires Obama to get back to the Constitution and other founding documents (the man is well-read, there is no doubting this). But Obama neglects to mention all the pork that Byrd brought to West Virginia at the expense of the rest of Americans. That is out of character with the criticisms of others, particularly Republicans, he mentions in the book.

Obama takes the time to articulate his own Christian faith experience and why he resonates with the historically Black church. Black churches tend to be more of the center of their community, and minister to the "whole man." They also tend to be more open-minded and allow for "doubts" and rational thinking. I predict the time will come when conservative Christians in America will remember Obama's faith and family values more fondly than they esteem them currently.

Barack Obama closes his book with some stories of his development as a husband and a father. When he started in public office, Michelle was both the career woman and homemaker, which stressed her out and caused friction in their marriage that it took Obama years to appreciate. He reflects on his desire to be a better father than the male figures he had in his life, and explains their shortcomings. He remains aware of how many more resources his family has to deal with career and family issues than many families. Obama's family life has always been a positive for him in my eyes. His diverse upbringing is important to me as well.

There is no foreign policy in this book.

Overall, I give it 2 stars out of 5. I hope for many thoughtful memoirs from President Obama after the White House. I sincerely hope this book will not be considered one of his best works.
( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
I love his easy, erudite writing style. My first introduction to Obama in-depth and what ultimately made me decide to support his election. ( )
  AlisonLea | Jan 10, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 127 (next | show all)
Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois and the Democratic Party’s new rock star, is that rare politician who can actually write — and write movingly and genuinely about himself.

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Barack Obamaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dierlamm, HelmutTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schäfer, UrselTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the women who raised me - my maternal grandmother, Tutu, who's been a rock of stability throughout my life, and my mother, whose loving spirit sustains me still.
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On most days, I enter the Capitol through the basement.
It's been almost ten years since I first ran for political office.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307455874, Mass Market Paperback)

Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father, was a compelling and moving memoir focusing on personal issues of race, identity, and community. With his second book The Audacity of Hope, Obama engages themes raised in his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, shares personal views on faith and values and offers a vision of the future that involves repairing a "political process that is broken" and restoring a government that has fallen out of touch with the people. We had the opportunity to ask Senator Obama a few questions about writing, reading, and politics--see his responses below. --Daphne Durham 20 Second Interview: A Few Words with Barack Obama

Q: How did writing a book that you knew would be read so closely by so many compare to writing your first book, when few people knew who you were?
A: In many ways, Dreams from My Father was harder to write. At that point, I wasn't even sure that I could write a book. And writing the first book really was a process of self-discovery, since it touched on my family and my childhood in a much more intimate way. On the other hand, writing The Audacity of Hope paralleled the work that I do every day--trying to give shape to all the issues that we face as a country, and providing my own personal stamp on them.

Q: What is your writing process like? You have such a busy schedule, how did you find time to write?
A: I'm a night owl, so I usually wrote at night after my Senate day was over, and after my family was asleep--from 9:30 p.m. or so until 1 a.m. I would work off an outline--certain themes or stories that I wanted to tell--and get them down in longhand on a yellow pad. Then I'd edit while typing in what I'd written.

Q: If readers are to come away from The Audacity of Hope with one action item (a New Year's Resolution for 2007, perhaps?), what should it be?
A: Get involved in an issue that you're passionate about. It almost doesn’t matter what it is--improving the school system, developing strategies to wean ourselves off foreign oil, expanding health care for kids. We give too much of our power away, to the professional politicians, to the lobbyists, to cynicism. And our democracy suffers as a result.

Q: You're known for being able to work with people across ideological lines. Is that possible in today's polarized Washington?
A: It is possible. There are a lot of well-meaning people in both political parties. Unfortunately, the political culture tends to emphasize conflict, the media emphasizes conflict, and the structure of our campaigns rewards the negative. I write about these obstacles in chapter 4 of my book, "Politics." When you focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points, and emphasize common sense over ideology, you'd be surprised what can be accomplished. It also helps if you're willing to give other people credit--something politicians have a hard time doing sometimes.

Q: How do you make people passionate about moderate and complex ideas?
A: I think the country recognizes that the challenges we face aren't amenable to sound-bite solutions. People are looking for serious solutions to complex problems. I don't think we need more moderation per se--I think we should be bolder in promoting universal health care, or dealing with global warming. We just need to understand that actually solving these problems won't be easy, and that whatever solutions we come up with will require consensus among groups with divergent interests. That means everybody has to listen, and everybody has to give a little. That's not easy to do.

Q: What has surprised you most about the way Washington works?
A: How little serious debate and deliberation takes place on the floor of the House or the Senate.

Q: You talk about how we have a personal responsibility to educate our children. What small thing can the average parent (or person) do to help improve the educational system in America? What small thing can make a big impact?
A: Nothing has a bigger impact than reading to children early in life. Obviously we all have a personal obligation to turn off the TV and read to our own children; but beyond that, participating in a literacy program, working with parents who themselves may have difficulty reading, helping their children with their literacy skills, can make a huge difference in a child's life.

Q: Do you ever find time to read? What kinds of books do you try to make time for? What is on your nightstand now?
A: Unfortunately, I had very little time to read while I was writing. I'm trying to make up for lost time now. My tastes are pretty eclectic. I just finished Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, a wonderful book. The language just shimmers. I've started Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is a great study of Lincoln as a political strategist. I read just about anything by Toni Morrison, E.L. Doctorow, or Philip Roth. And I've got a soft spot for John le Carre.

Q: What inspires you? How do you stay motivated?
A: I'm inspired by the people I meet in my travels--hearing their stories, seeing the hardships they overcome, their fundamental optimism and decency. I'm inspired by the love people have for their children. And I'm inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart. They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:23 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Senator Obama calls for a different brand of politics--a politics for those weary of bitter partisanship and alienated by the "endless clash of armies" we see in Congress and on the campaign trail; a politics rooted in the faith, inclusiveness, and nobility of spirit at the heart of our democracy. He explores those forces--from the fear of losing, to the perpetual need to raise money, to the power of the media--that can stifle even the best-intentioned politician. He examines the growing economic insecurity of American families, the racial and religious tensions within the body politic, and the transnational threats--from terrorism to pandemic--that gather beyond our shores. And he grapples with the role that faith plays in a democracy. Only by returning to the principles that gave birth to our Constitution, he says, can Americans repair a broken political process, and restore to working order a government dangerously out of touch with millions of ordinary Americans.--From publisher description.… (more)

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