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The Audacity of Hope

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The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama's call for a new kind of politics -- a politics that builds upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. Lucid in his vision of American's place in the world, refreshingly candid about his family life and his time in the Senate, Obama here sets out his political convictions and inspires us to trust in the dogged optimism that has long defined us and that is our best hope going forward.

375 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2006

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About the author

Barack Obama

304 books19.1k followers
Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States, elected in November 2008 and holding office for two terms. He is the author of two previous New York Times bestselling books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, and the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Michelle. They have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

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Profile Image for Trevor.
1,293 reviews21.7k followers
February 18, 2008
I’m assuming Obama will be the next President of the USA. That will probably be a good thing. Recently I did an online quiz to pick which candidate I would be most likely to vote for – as an Australian this was purely an academic exercise – but it said I should support Obama. Naturally, my politics and his are quite different – I’m to his extreme left, but I thought I should find out more about him just the same.

It is an odd thing how different Australians are from Americans. We are both ‘frontier’ societies with a history of appalling treatment of our native peoples – but I think we have made a better stab at multiculturalism than has been the case in the US. From reading this book it also seems clear that we do community better here than the US does.

One of our biggest worries is that we might be becoming more like America. The US Health System (if that is not an oxymoron) rightly frightens the life out of us – we, at least, have some semblance of a national health system. Medicare may not be perfect, but God save us from the US system!

There were parts of this book that gave me slight cause for hope – it did seem like he might try to do something about education, and might even help people retrain to get better jobs. His criticisms of corporate America’s disproportionate influence on politics due to the money it was able to pour in was reassuring, if only because he noticed it might be a problem.

There were parts of the book that made me cringe – the stuff about his family and how much he loved his wife was all a bit saccharine for my tastes. Some of the writing was overly flowery. But I think possibly Australians are a bit more reserved with this stuff (a bit more British) than Americans and what makes us cringe might well seem quite endearing in the US.

All the same, wouldn’t it be wonderful if a candidate for US President did not have to declare themselves Christian to have any hope of being elected? As a nation that has had at least one Agnostic Prime Minister (Bob Hawke – although, as the joke went, that was only because Bob wasn’t sure if he was God or not) it seems insane the obsession that religion is in American politics. For a country that likes a personal relationship with God the US certainly does like that personal relationship to be as public as possible.

I was surprised at how much time was spent in this book talking about God – our politicians would never do this – not at such length. The other bit of the book that made me cringe was him talking to Senator Bird and proudly declaring himself a committed Christian. Bird saying to him that all he needed by his side were the American Constitution and the Bible was also very concerning.

I was flicking though The Rights of Man recently and was interested when Paine said that it wasn’t for one generation to limit for all time the extent of the hopes and dreams of all following generations. This is the second book by a US politician I’ve read recently – the other being Gore’s The Assault on Reason – and I’ve been surprised in both at how much time is spent talking about the glories of the founding documents and the nearly god like reverence shown for the founding fathers. This is something else that is completely alien in Australian politics. It is not just that in the main we have no idea about our own Federation – but no one here has a clue about the Australian constitution, which is also a matter of some pride to most Aussies. Mostly, those who do know something about it see it as a deeply flawed document that it is impossible to fix and should be more or less ignored. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in a country that has such a view of its own importance and historical infallibility – I’m quite sure I wouldn’t like it. But I’ve never been good at crowds – particularly not flag waving crowds.

Obama recognises that money is a problem in American politics, but I think I would still go further than him. It isn’t so much money that is the problem, but a problem with the American psyche in which, it seems from afar, the only measure for success and worth of anyone is how much money they have made. The US government appears to be little more than a rich man’s club, something else Obama talks about in his book – it is hardly surprising that so few ordinary people seem to be bothered to vote in what appears to be a popularity contest between the obscenely wealthy.

I have often wondered if societies have become too large to be properly governed as democracies. Plato put limits on the size of his ideal republic – I can’t remember what it is, but I think it might have been 30,000 people – something like that anyway. There are 300 million in the US – is it really a silly question to ask whether any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure? How ‘democratic’ it can be must surely be a question worth considering.

There is a part of me that worries that America believes its own myths far too much.

But Obama does look like he might try to help the poor, that he might seek to finally do something to address the shame that is racism, that he might do something to reduce the US deficit (which is increasingly a threat to world economic growth) and might even do something to improve health care, maternity leave, and other family friendly policies. Of course, my hope is a little more audacious – that one day there might just be a President of the US who doesn’t feel they have to denigrate their mother’s secular humanism as their only hope of being elected. That the US might one day consider someone’s worth not as being measured purely by the size of their bank account and that paying taxes will be seen as something proudly done because it is the price one pays to live in a civilisation.

I can’t help but feel that while the US cuts taxes to the bone, prefers its citizens to beg in the humiliation that is charity rather than turn when in need to the dignity of social welfare, while the US gleefully punishes the poor and the working class with unliveable wages, while the US talks of placing the ten commandments in the courtrooms that sentence people to death in contradiction of the ‘thou shalt not kill’ they would hypocritically engrave into the walls, it will always be hard for me to understand the US.

But if Obama does half what he says he will in this book, even as modest a proposal as it seems, then perhaps, just maybe, there is some cause for hope.
Profile Image for Tulay.
1,202 reviews2 followers
May 28, 2017
Excellent book. When I found out he was the narrator had to buy it. Did read the hard copy back in 2007. Missed his voice so much, intelligent, inspiring speeches. Fall in love with him at the 2004 Democratic convention.
His work in Chicago, ambitious political journey, how he met his wife. Values, American history, family and his understanding of the issues we are facing. He had the Audacity of Hope to do something about them, but his hands was tied at his back, legs knocked under him.
One think I never understood; if we all are God's children and we all bleed red, why all this hate?
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.6k followers
December 4, 2013
I've now finished this book, which I've been reviewing a chapter at a time. Before starting, I was concerned that it might lower my opinion of him. Many people have been rather dismissive, and perhaps that's why I didn't read it earlier. In fact, it has had the opposite effect. It's well thought out and convincing, and I respect him more. The one major criticism I have is that it's stylistically unimpressive; you can see that it would have benefited from another revision pass. He is however so insanely busy that I'm grateful he had time to write it at all. There certainly aren't many politicians at his level doing this kind of thing.

And, with that introduction, the main review...


I was given this book as a Christmas present by my 19 year old son. Kind of symbolic, I guess. I am about the same age as Obama, and over the last couple of years have become a huge supporter. I managed to be in the US around the election last November, and was delighted to find that it was legal for me to contribute to his campaign in terms of doing unpaid work. I helped organize a calling party in Sunnyvale (I was in charge of catering), and even got to make a couple of hundred phone calls to swing voters in Ohio. I have never been told to fuck off so many times in one afternoon, it was a fantastic experience. A few people were even nice to me! The most memorable one being the 87 year old great-grandmother with the broken hip, who said she was going to vote Obama together with two of her granddaughters, so that was three votes we could count on.

Obama is all about reestablishing trust in the political process - it's the very first thing he says in this book. I am writing this early in the second week of his presidency, and so far I can't fault him. He's doing everything he said he would do, as quickly as it can be done. Closing Gitmo, ending rendition and use of torture, funding third-world aid that includes contraception and abortion, sending a high-level representative to the Middle East, allowing states to set tougher emissions targets. Please, please continue with that.

--- Now a couple of chapters in. The style is not brilliant, but I think he is saying interesting and important things. So far, the central message has been that the US badly needs to make the political debate less polarized - people have to start trying to see similarities as well as differences, view their counterparts on the other side of the political divide as mistaken rather than evil, and above all listen. It comes across as very level-headed and positive, and he has good examples to support his argument, showing how both left- and right-wing people would find themselves more in agreement if they applied their principles consistently.

I was rather struck by the fact that, when he says that he doesn't think George W. Bush is a bad person, this comes across as a controversial claim. He seems to want to believe it. I can't quite make up my mind as to whether he really does, but I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I should try it too. It's definitely an interesting spiritual exercise.

--- Chapter 3, on the Constitution. I thought it was also pretty good. Obama knows this stuff in great depth - he's taught classes on constitutional law, and he has also, of course, had hands-on experience of the legislative process. He makes a strong, balanced case for the validity of the Constitution, taking plenty of time to look at the counter-arguments. In particular, he examines the ways in which the Constitution was used first to maintain slavery, and then to impede the progress of civil rights reforms. I find it impressive that he still believes in it. His basic argument is that it's a very carefully thought-out, flexible framework, which allows enough free play that it doesn't lock the US into one course, but rather allows Congress to adapt to changing circumstances, while still implementing the basic goals of the Founding Fathers.

It was interesting to compare Obama's analysis with Charlie Savage's book Takeover, which I read a few months ago. Savage's goal is to give an overall picture of the well-orchestrated attack that the Bush/Cheney administration mounted on the Constitution, which depended on narrow and highly debatable readings of a few key passages in the Federalist Papers, together with the establishment of precedents aimed at justifying a radical expansion of the Executive's powers. If you want to criticize Obama's take on the Constitution, remember that that's the current alternative. I know which one I feel more comfortable with.

--- Chapter 4, "Politics". The question this chapter addresses is, approximately: why are so many politicians cynical, lying phonies? I thought Obama did a good job of answering it. I would paraphrase his reply as follows. First, losing an election really hurts. If you win, you are an important person, and everyone treats you with great respect. If you lose, you are nobody.

Second, the difference between winning and losing depends very largely on having enough money to buy TV advertising. It's all about name recognition and getting your message across.

Third, by far the easiest way to raise money is to get tight with the special interest groups. They offer you an attractive deal: promise to do what they want, and they will quickly fix your financing. It's not easy to negotiate with them. Once you've signed, you're either in their pocket, or you cynically renege on your promises. Either way, you're compromised. Even worse, since money is all-important, and special interest groups and rich donors are way you get it, soon you're spending most of your time with them. So you rarely get to meet the people you're supposed to be representing.

He illustrates all these points simply and clearly with things taken from his own personal experience. He doesn't give himself credit for being particularly tough; he thinks he got a lot of lucky breaks, and says what they were. He's refreshingly low on bullshit.

I am really quite surprised at what a good book this has so far turned out to be!

--- Chapter 5, "Opportunity". It's the economy, stupid.

I don't understand why some people who reviewed this book complain that Obama says nothing about how he would address the problems the US is facing. At times, I almost thought he went into too much detail. He picks out three big things that he wants to focus on, in order to keep the US competitive in the global marketplace: education, research, and energy self-sufficiency.

I'll concentrate on research, since I know about that from personal experience, but a word first on energy: thank goodness, Obama is not, like most politicians, innumerate. He notes in a couple of sentences that the US uses 25% of the world's energy, but has only 3% of the world's fossil fuel resources, so further oil and gas exploration is not going to help much. Contrast his sensible, adult discussion of the issues with Sarah Palin's "Drill, baby, drill!" - one of the most moronic political sound-bites I've seen in recent years. It was unpleasant to see how many people bought this nonsense.

But going back to research, Obama points out that the US implicitly assumes that it will maintain a global superiority in science and technology, yet has been steadily cutting investment in basic research. In the 70s, more than a quarter of all research proposals were funded; now it's dropped to 10% or less. As he says, this means that scientists need to spend a large proportion of their time chasing the money that's still there, leaving them correspondingly fewer hours to do actual work. Another, less obvious, effect is that research focuses on a few "safe" directions, with speculative high-risk/high-gain ideas becoming almost impossible to fund; unfortunately, history shows that the risky ideas are the ones that really make a difference. Lee Smolin gives an excellent analysis of the problem in The Trouble with Physics.

I am one of many researchers who has given up, and moved elsewhere. I spent a lot of this decade working in the US, and most of the previous one working for a US company. I'm now in Switzerland, continuing to develop stuff that was largely paid for by the US taxpayer - if you're curious, you can read all about it in our 2006 book, Putting Linguistics into Speech Recognition. The flow of knowledge always used to be in the opposite direction. It feels kind of weird.

Obama says in this book that he wants to double investment in research. I wonder whether he is still going to have a chance of doing that, given the economic climate, but it's nice to see that he thinks it's important.

--- Chapter 6, "Faith". Something of a tightrope act, but it goes with the territory. I thought he acquitted himself well, and was never in serious danger of falling off. As in other chapters, he concentrates on trying to help all sides find common ground in this very difficult area. He clearly has great sympathy both with Christian and with secular thinkers, and is upfront about his connections with the Muslim world.

On the one hand, he explains why separation of church and state is so important for the US, and quietly but firmly distances himself from creationism. On the other, he explains why, despite being raised as a non-believer, he is now a Christian. He goes to some lengths to explain what kind of Christian he is: he is much more inspired by the Sermon on the Mount than by Genesis or Leviticus. One could say he's a Christian in the boring, old-fashioned sense of trying to follow the teachings of Christ.

At times, I have wondered whether he is just pretending to be Christian out of political expediency. After reading this chapter, I'm inclined to think I was wrong there. If you're a black American, you do have some pretty good reasons for being Christian. Obama isn't aggressive about it, but he reminds you that the Christian churches were a major force in driving through civil rights reforms; it probably wouldn't have happened without them. He wants to push through some major reforms of his own, and I hope that his faith will help him in the same way that it helped Martin Luther King.

--- Chapter 7, "Race". Another potential tightrope act, but here I thought Obama was extremely confident, in fact completely in control. Well, he has of course been thinking about these issues all his life, and they must have been one of the major reasons for him entering politics. I would say he had two main topics.

First, he wanted black Americans to try and steer a balanced course between two ways of thinking. On the one hand, it would be ridiculous not to agree that huge progress has been made over the last few decades. He has sensible arguments here, but his mere existence is of course the best one. On the other hand, there is a huge amount of work left to do. The situation for most blacks and Latinos is still terrible.

The brings him to the second main topic. The black subculture in the inner cities is out of control. The US has to do something about it, as a major priority: it's not in anyone's interests to have a de facto third world country within America's borders. There is a vicious circle of neglect, abuse, bad parenting, crime and unemployability that has to be broken into. Obama suggests that the best point to attack might be to focus on better education for black teenage girls, setting up incentives that will make it more attractive for them to finish school, and less attractive to get pregnant and start living on welfare.

He does a good job of angling the language so that it can appeal to both left and right - this is something that everyone needs to buy into. As he says, the right are upset that welfare has set up a self-perpetuating system where people don't have strong enough reasons to want to break out. That kind of status quo isn't to anyone's advantage.

--- Chapter 8, "The World Beyond our Borders". A very sensible look at the problems surrounding US foreign policy. He starts off with Indonesia, which he knows a lot about; he lived there for several years as a boy, and his mother continued to work there for a long time afterwards. As he says, the last 50 years of Indonesian history are a good way to see both the positive and the negative sides of the way the US treats the rest of the world. The US helped Indonesia gain freedom from the Dutch; after that, it supported an appalling dictatorship because it viewed it as an ally against Communism. More recently, the US has used economic power to force Indonesia to move its economic model towards free-market norms. This has angered many people, and made it easier for Islamic fundamentalists to make their voices heard.

He then backs off to give some broader historical perspective. The key problem, as he sees it, is that US foreign policy has been inconsistent, veering wildly between extremes. Sometimes, it is overly aggressive about trying to push its agenda, and upsets everyone. At other times, it withdraws into an isolationist stance, and then you get a different set of problems. World War II might well not have happened if the US had woken up earlier and recognized how dangerous Nazi Germany was.

His ideal is a compromise between these two positions. The US needs to engage actively with the rest of the world, but do so within a legal framework which it voluntarily submits to. The one effective way to spread democracy is to lead by example, and show that laws apply to everyone. Otherwise, the US opens itself up to the reasonable criticism that "democracy" is only another word for US interests. He thinks that the best example of this kind of policy was the Truman presidency after WW II, where the US was very effective in uniting the Western world against Communism.

Now that the Cold War is over, the US needs to rethink its role. He considers that Gulf War I was a success, as was the war in Afghanistan, which most of the world saw as legitimate self-defense. Iraq, on the other hand, was a ghastly mistake. He goes into some detail about exactly why he opposed it, and his judgment does indeed appear to have been spot on.

He believes that one of the major issues facing the US at the moment is the threat of rogue countries or terrorist groups getting hold of nuclear weapons. He wants to fight that in several ways. The most important are, first, winning over hearts and minds by showing that the US is really a friend of the third world rather than an enemy, and, second, building up effective international alliances based on mutual trust.

--- Chapter 9, "The Family". He finishes with the most personal chapter of the book, and tells you a fair amount about his own family. He comes across as a nice guy, and I'm convinced he has a very good marriage. Why? Because he's not afraid to admit that he and Michelle fight a good deal, and when they do he seems to try hard to see her side of the story, and do something about it. He's an excellent listener.

Another thing that comes across is that he really likes women. Not as sexual objects (though he's by no means indifferent to female charm), but as people. If Clinton was the first black president, then Obama is the first feminist president. It's not accidental; he was raised by his mother and grandmother, and he lives with his wife and his two daughters, whom he plainly adores. He's been surrounded by women all his life, and he's learned to understand what's important to them.

The chapter's not all personal: he also has stuff to say about policy issues which concern the family. Once again, what I am most impressed with is how damn sensible he is. He could easily have got bogged down on things like rape or gay marriage, which, though important, are not the most central issues. What he is fact most interested in is reducing the teen pregnancy rate, and providing better daycare for working mothers. I just can't fault him on this. I lived 10 years in Sweden, and good, affordable daycare makes such a difference to women that it's almost beyond belief.


And now, Mr Obama: as I said, I loved your book. Please follow through on the program you describe here, and literally billions of people will thank you. But you already know that.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,256 followers
July 6, 2019
‘The Audacity of Hope’ by Barack Obama is subtitled “thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream”. This immediately gives the reader a whiff of things to come: this book is written by a politician, on the make, with specific political objectives. And when one realises that it was first published in 2006, one immediately understands what the main objective is.

The so-called “American Dream” is about a utopia where anyone can rise up in life from the rock bottom by sheer hard work, without any support – whatever be your caste, creed or colour. Of course it’s a myth: but it’s a myth which has kept the country going ever since it coalesced into one. But after Reagan, with the rise of the right-wing and slipping of the Republican Party more and more into the hands of hard-line conservatives, this dream seems at risk to many liberals. Since they make up the major chunk of Democrat voter base, how to reclaim it is seen as the top priority by the Presidential aspirant: and rightly so, I would say.

From the measured voice he has kept throughout the narrative, I would consider Obama to be sincere about what he is speaking (and from hindsight, one can say that he has largely kept faith throughout his eight-year reign). The one thing he stretches is empathy: to view the world through the eyes of someone else, even your biggest antagonist.
I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush's eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him. That's what empathy does - it calls us to task, the conservative and the liberal, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressors. We are all shaken out of our complacency. We are all forced beyond our limited vision.
This is the tone Obama tries to keep throughout the book, and he succeeds on the whole (except in one area – but more about that later). We get the picture of a sincere politician (a career politician, true, but no less sincere for that) out to clear up the mess that two years of the Bush Presidency has pushed America into.

The book is divided into nine chapters.

Republicans and Democrats: Here, Obama tackles what he feels to be the basic problem of modern-day American political sphere: divisiveness. Opinion on everything is divided and divided vehemently; and there is no effort to reach a consensus on any issue. It’s always ‘us’ versus ‘them’. But the majority of Americans are not interested in these sectarian battles – they have lives to live, and anxieties to overcome about how to do it. When they look at politicians, they see only a bunch of bickering partisans and they turn away from politics altogether. Obama says that they are waiting for a politics of realism and balance, based on common sense and not dogma: waiting for Democrats and Republicans to “catch up with them”!

Values: Which brings us to the thing which divides people most – values. Today, values are at different ends of the spectrum for conservatives and liberals and nobody is willing to budge an inch. However, in this argument, people are forgetting one of the most important of all values: empathy. It is the basis of Obama’s vision, as evidenced by the quote above. As long as the American people cling on to their values at the same time respecting another’s right to do the same, there is no need for all these divisive battles. (This is one point where I agree vehemently with Obama; in fact, Indians could also benefit from obeying the “Golden Rule”.)

Our Constitution: What does the constitution say and how is it to be interpreted? We see this debate in all democracies, between people who wants to keep to the letter and those who want to follow the spirit; between people who want to interpret it based on conservative archaism and those want to read liberal values into it (this is the centre of a raging debate in India now). There are also people who want to leave it all to the judges, as though they are some kind of ubermensch blessed with greater capabilities of comprehension than ordinary mortals. In this context, I could empathise with Obama’s viewpoint – though I doubt how much of it can be implemented in practice, given the pig-headed nature of most human beings.
The answer I settle on – which is by no means original to me – requires a shift in metaphors, one that sees our democracy not as a house to be built, but as a conversation to be had. According to this conception, the genius of Madison’s design is not that it provides us a fixed blueprint for action, the way a draftsman plots a building’s construction. It provides us with a framework and with rules, but fidelity to these rules will not guarantee a just society or assure agreement on what’s right.
Of course, politicians need to be mature enough for this conversation. When that will happen is anybody’s guess.

Politics: Can a politician honestly implement value-based governance in today’s dirty, media- and money-driven politics? Obama is a realist enough to believe that it’s not possible fully, and honest enough to say it openly. However, he believes a sort of compromise can be achieved if the legislator connects with his electorate (and his domestic record does bear out his conviction).

Opportunity: This is the longest chapter in the book – and the most impressive, according to me. Obama’s musings on how to get the American economy back on track with equitable justice to every section of the populace shows the breadth and depth of his vision. He totally rejects the “Social Darwinism” advocated by the GOP, modelled upon their darling Ayn Rand’s kooky ideas; at the same time, he is aware of the pitfalls of the welfare state. So to counter the “winner-take-all” free market chaos, he advocates strengthening the economic infrastructure, with government investments in the areas of education, science and technology, and energy.

Obama is wise enough to understand that these will not bring in a boom overnight. But a strategic investment today is a safety net for tomorrow: an educated populace with a strong grounding in science and technology, with alternative energy developments in full flow, will give rise to an America who is not dependent on the world to supply all these. Such an economy with a robust foundation will allow the country to provide succour for the underprivileged, through social security.

Faith: America is a contradiction in terms. It is one of the most religious countries, yet one with a strict bifurcation between the Church and the State; and this dichotomy does make the country schizophrenic as a whole, at times. And in the current times, this has resulted in the Right moving more and more towards totalitarian religion, while liberals move away from it at an even faster clip. But to be secular, is the total abrogation of religion required? Maybe not:
When we abandon the field of religious discourse – when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practised, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum. And those who do are likely to be those with the most insular views of faith, or who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.
Golden words: not applicable only to America but the world in general. The fight against fundamentalism is to be won not through confrontation but engagement.

Race: Maybe the most touchy subject for an African-American, but Obama handles his exposition on race issues in America brilliantly. Whatever one says, America is a “Melting Pot” and to bring it back to a segregated version is rather like trying to extract the contents of a masala into its individual components. So, the concept of a “black America or a white America or a Latino America” does not make sense, especially to a man whose “family get-togethers... take on the appearance of a UN General Assembly meeting”.

It does not mean race and racial issues don’t exist – they do. And they have to be tackled. But the onus should be on inclusion, and not exclusion, because “America is big enough to accommodate all their dreams.” (Incidentally, I believe India should also follow this advice, seeing the extremely xenophobic tendencies of late.)

The World Beyond Our Borders: Well, after all the inspiring writing in the previous chapters, it is here that Obama falls flat. True, he questions Bush’s ill-advised Iraq invasion: but he reiterates that America will have to function as a “reluctant sheriff” to the world, so that the security of America is not threatened and totalitarian regimes are kept in their place, and democracy slowly established. He talks about the “rogue” states of North Korea and Iran but is silent on the international bully Israel. He talks about terrorism in Afghanistan but is silent about Pakistan. Talk about double standards! (This chapter is the reason I docked this book a star.)

Family: The traditional family in America is under siege, with the increased number of divorces and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. With women gaining more independence, and both parents working to make ends meet, “happily married” couples are also under pressure. Obama, the family man par excellence, gives us an object lesson on work-life balance; how it can be achieved through government support to working mothers, and a bit of social enlightenment for males to accept that the woman’s place is no longer exclusively the home.


The “audacity of hope” was a phrase used by Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., in a sermon. It is
...having the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary that we could restore a sense of continuity to a nation torn by conflict; the gall to believe that despite personal setbacks, the loss of a job or an illness in the family or a childhood mired in poverty, we had some control – and therefore responsibility – over our own fate.
Barack Obama had that audacity – and the audacity to pursue the hope, for country decimated by eight years of Dubya’s disastrous reign. But will America get anyone with the same mettle to take the country back to normal after the reign of the catastrophe called Donald Trump? That, to me, is the million-dollar question.
34 reviews3 followers
June 26, 2007
It is a good thing that these days, if a Democratic candidate wants to continue war and occupation in Iraq, he has to call it "phased redeployment" a la Obama, rather than "20,000 more troops," a la Kerry. People are fed up with the old policies, and they're looking towards candidates who talk left. I think that's a sign of a real shift among regular people, and we shouldn't dismiss anyone who wants to see real change but still has hopes in the Democratic Party. This is true even if we already know through bitter experience that a goal of the Democrats is to lower hopes and expectations as much as possible--all the easier to dash those hopes in the end. (Thus, Harry Reid's telling reply to the millions of anti-war voters who sent his party to Congress only to watch the Democrats write Bush a blank check for war, "maybe we set the bar too high.")

That said, there is something of a personality cult growing up around Obama, in particular. I read The Audacity of Hope to better understand the appeal, and what I found was a work of autohagiography to beat the band. As for political content, his true stripes are shown off proudly, as when he dismisses his days as a lefty as something gone up like marijuana smoke in a college dorm room, while bending over backwards to praise the policies of Ronald Reagan. It is quite a feat to watch him present himself to regular people as the face of "a new kind of politics," while assuring those in the halls of power that his are still the politics of Reagan and Clinton.

The book is, all in all, a painful read, owing to its sheer flabbiness. There are plenty of words, but precious little substance, and turning the page quickly becomes a chore. That said, I'd recommend reading it simply because Obama's campaign is a huge force on the left. It's worth reading, but we shouldn't get too hung up on the idea that the legions of people who will vote for Obama are actually for what Obama is for, because they're not (and Obama knows this, which is why he is so tight-lipped on the matter of concrete policy proposals). What people know is that they want an alternative to what they've got, and that's good news for anyone who wants to change the world and is looking for allies.
Profile Image for Diane Wallace.
1,131 reviews55 followers
June 14, 2017
Great book! amazing insight and a wonderful read...(paperback!)
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
December 22, 2019
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Barack Obama
The book, divided into nine chapters, outlines Obama's political and spiritual beliefs, as well as his opinions on different aspects of American culture. The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama's call for a new kind of politics.
"In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!"

عنوانهای کتاب در ترجمه به فارسی: جسارت امید؛ گستاخی امید: تاملاتی در باره احیاء رویای آمریکایی؛ بی‌پروایی و امید: فرازهایی از اندیشه در بازخوانی و رویای امریکایی؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و دوم ماه دسامبر سال 2010 میلادی

عنوان: جسارت امید؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ مترجم: ابوالحسن تهامی؛ تهران، نشر نگاه، 1387؛ در 480 ص؛ شابک: 9789643515355؛ موضوع: ایالات متحده - سیاست و حکومت - از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده ی 21 م

عنوان: جسارت امید: تاملاتی در باب بازیابی رویای امریکایی؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ مترجم: آرش عزیزی؛ تهرن، نشر چشمه، 1388؛ در 327 ص؛ شابک: 9789643625054؛

عنوان: گستاخی امید: تاملاتی در باره احیاء رویای آمریکایی؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ مترجم: حبیب‌ الله فقیهی‌ نژاد؛ تهران، آبارون، 1389؛ در 466 ص شابک: 9789648803488؛

عنوان: بی‌پروایی و امید: فرازهایی از اندیشه در بازخوانی و رویای امریکایی؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ بازگردان: جمشید فخر؛ افزوده و ویراستاری: شیوا کاویانی؛ تهران : نشر حریر، ‏‫1393؛ در 488 ص؛ شابک: 9789642870400؛

کتاب در نه فصل نوشته شده است. عناوین فصل‌ها: فصل نخست: «جمهوری‌خواهان و دموکرات‌ها»؛ فصل دوم: «ارزش‌ها»؛ فصل سوم: قانون اساسی ما»؛ فصل چهارم: «سیاست»؛ فصل پنجم: «فرصت»؛ فصل ششم: «ایمان»؛ فصل هفتم: «نژاد»�� فصل هشتم: «دنیای بیرون از مرزهای ما»؛ فصل نهم: «خانواده»؛

باراک اوباما، کتاب «جسارت امید» را، پیش از کاندیدا شدن برای ریاست جمهوری آمریکا، نوشتند. این کتاب دیدگاه‌های این سیاست‌مدار آمریکایی درباره‌ ی مسائل مختلف را، به خوانشگران کتاب ارائه می‌دهد. ایشان در پس‌گفتار کتابشان، درباره‌ ی حضور خود در کنگره، در سال 2005 میلادی سخن می‌گویند، که پلکانی برای تبدیل شدن ایشان، به یک سیاست‌مدار نام‌دار است. ایشان از این مسئله صحبت کرده است، که با وجود کرسی کنگره، خانواده‌ اش را در «شیکاگو» نگاه داشته بودند، و به یاری همسرشان بانو «میشل»، تلاش می‌کردند، ثبات و آرامش را، در خانواده‌ شان حفظ کنند، «جسارت امید: اندیشه‌ هایی پیرامون بازپس‌گیری رؤیای آمریکایی»؛ دومین کتاب نوشته‌ شده توسط «باراک اوباما»، رئیس‌ جمهور پیشین ایالات متحدهٔ آمریکاست. در پاییز سال 2006 میلادی، پس از اعلام حمایت «اپرا وینفری»، از «باراک اوباما»، «جسارت امید» در صدر فهرست پر فروش‌ترین کتاب‌های «نیویورک تایمز»، و «آمازون دات‌کام» قرار گرفت. در این کتاب «اوباما» درباره ی بسیاری از موضوعاتی که بعدها جزئی از کارزار انتخاباتی ایشان در سال 2008 میلادی شدند، به‌ تفصیل سخن می‌گویند. «اوباما» اندکی کمتر از سه ماه پس از انتشار کتابشان، در روز دهم ماه فوریهٔ ی سال 2007 میلادی، خبر از اعلام آمادگی، برای حضور در کارزار تبلیغاتی ریاست‌ جمهوری ایالات متحده دادند، که در پایان با پیروزی ایشان به پایان رسید، نقل نمونه متن: «فکرهای من از این مرحله به مادرم برگشت که سرطان در سرتاسر بدنش ریشه دوانده، و روزهای پایانی زندگیش را نزدیک کرده بود، در خلال این بیماری برای من اعتراف کرده بود که حاضر نیست مرگ را بپذیرد، و ناگهانی این بیماری، او را شگفت‌زده کرده بود، گویی آن دنیای مادی، که وی بسیار دوستش می‌داشت، به وی پشت کرده بود، به وی خیانت کرده بود. و گرچه او دلیرانه با بیماریش مبارزه کرد، و رنج‌های شیمی‌ درمانی را با خوش‌رویی و شوخ‌ طبعی تحمل کرد، بیش از یک‌بار سایه‌ ی ترس را بر چهره‌ اش دیدم. چیزی بیش از ترس یا درد یا ترس از ناشناخته‌ ها، به تصور من، تنهایی محض مرگ بود که مادرم را می‌ترساند. این احساس که در آن سفر پایانی، در آن آخرین حادثه، کسی نخواهد بود که در تجربیاتش سهیم شود، کسی که به همراه او از قدرت بدن به شگفتی فرو رود، که تا چه حد می‌تواند بر خودش رنج تحمیل کند، کسی که همراه او بر پوچی زندگی بخندد، که چگونه ناگهان همه چیز در کارخانه‌ ی بدن متوقف می‌شود...؛ وقتی از کلیسا بیرون رفتم، آن فکرها را با خود می‌بردم، بعد از پایان سخنرانی، و بازگشت به شیکاگو هم، آن فکرها هنوز با من بودند. در خانه پشت میز شام، دو دخترم: «مالیا» و «ساشا»، را نگاه می‌کردم، که می‌خندیدند و شوخی می‌کردند، و خوراک لوبیایی را که مادرشان پخته بود نمی‌خوردند، تا آنکه مادرشان دنبالشان کرد، و آن‌ها به طبقه‌ی بالا و داخل حمام گریختند، و مادرشان به دنبال آن‌ها رفت. تنها که ماندم، در آشپرخانه به شستن ظرف‌ها پرداختم، و در نظر آوردم که تماشای رشد کودکان‌مان چه دلپذیر است، و چه سخت و وحشتناک است، آن لحظه که نیرویی قصد جداکردن فرزندمان را برای همیشه داشته باشد.»؛ پایان نقل. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
February 28, 2021
It bored me quickly. Skimmed through it,feels like a lecture on Obama's political views and the American political system.And I am not enough of an Obama fan to slog through all that.

(Infact,in my view,he alongwith George W.Bush,is among the worst US presidents.His aggressive policy against Pakistan still rankles.During his era,all those drone attacks and retaliatory terrorism ,turned Pakistan into a killing field.Besides,all those efforts at regime change in the Middle East and the total destabilization of Libya,took place under him).

He does seem to have a sense of humour,though. When George W.Bush complimented his wife,Obama replied,"Mr.President we both got better than we deserved".

That is one thing,I agree with.(I mean the presidency is more than either of them ever deserved.Not sure about their wives).
Profile Image for Linda C..
Author 4 books34 followers
July 3, 2007
Barack Obama fills me with hope.

Hope for the United States, and hope for America's standing on the world stage.

This book shows the human side of a man who is running for president. He tackles many different issues from faith, race, family life, war, international relations, and politics.

All are done in a thoughtful manner.

I get the sense that when he attempts to address an issue that he truly wants to hear from all interested parties, and work to come to an accommodation that everyone can live with.

At least that is his goal from the outset.

He gave an example of a legislative accomplishment from his days in the Illinois State Senate. It was a bill that required law enforcement to videotape interrogations and confessions in capital cases. At the beginning of the process, no one gave it any chance of passing. The police unions were opposed because they thought it would interfere with their jobs, death penalty opponents were opposed to anything which might weaken their goal at abolishing executions, the legislators were skittish and didn't want to vote for something that might seem "soft on crime," and the new governor had publicly come out against it during the campaign season.

It sounded like it would be impossible to get passed. Yet, Obama felt that there was common ground. That no one wanted an innocent person ending up on death row or someone guilty of a capital crime be allowed to go free.

It was in that spirit that he began negotiations with all the various interested parties. He changed some aspects of the bill when flaws were shown, but he held firm to his principles when attempts were made to substantially alter the impact of the legislation.

At the end of the process, all parties endorsed the bill.

He credits that one of the reasons that the process worked is that they did their best to keep this out of the media.

The bill was passed unanimously and signed into law.

I like that example a lot.

I also like that he has taught Constitutional law. He has a grounding and respect in the governing documents of our democracy.

He also has a perspective that comes from his unique biography. He speaks to our hearts because he is one of us.

He is living the American Dream. He knows the power of people when they gather together in a community. He is now trying to organize more than the neighborhoods in Chicago, he is trying to organize a nation.

He has my admiration, my respect, and my vote.
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews562 followers
May 20, 2015
I found the first couple of chapters of this book a bit murky, due to my ignorance of American political life and methods, but after that I found it fascinating. I loved the way that Obama can communicate at all levels. This book could so easily have been a dry and dusty analysis of his political life and experiences, but instead it was an intensely human and open discussion of the issues that matter to him. I liked him before I read the book, and I liked him even more afterwards.

I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the plight of blue collar workers in the US - whose jobs appear to be squeezed from all angles, and what he had to say about the standards of living for everyone. As has been noted elsewhere, life does not seem to be getting easier, except for the very wealthy.

The one chapter I found strange was the one on faith. It would be inconceivable for a British politician to write an autobiography and include any sort of discussion about his or her religious beliefs. This chapter voiced clearly both the importance of religion in American politics, and Obama's desire to share his personal beliefs.

The chapter about his family also quite surprised me, but it suggested an openness to domestic problems (serious, big, difficult problems for a lot of families), that are seldom voiced amongst politicians, and I warmed to him as a result.

I learnt a lot about Obama through reading this book. Of course being written in 2006 it misses out great chunks of his career, but I still found it a very good read. What a warm, thoughtful and generous man.

Profile Image for K..
3,677 reviews1,007 followers
February 7, 2017
3.5 stars.

This week was.........not a good time to read this book. I thought that it would be, that it would be the perfect time to read about the need for compassion in politics and how there's always hope for the future.

Instead? This was just...sad. 2006 Barack Obama had so much hope for the future, so much determination that we could make the world a better place. He talks so passionately about the godawful state of the US health insurance system, the arguments against marriage equality, the appalling state of many US public schools, America's repeated involvement in any political issue in a country that has oil.

And here we are, just over ten years later with all the work he did as President being unravelled.

In short: FUCK.

(As far as the book itself goes, some sections were fascinating, others were moving, some were...dry. I could have done without some chapters altogether, frankly)
33 reviews3 followers
September 14, 2008
What kind of bozo writes his memoirs before having achieved anything of merit (Read my review of Harry Potter). He is simply a classic socialist/marxist redistribution of wealth liberal. "From each, according to their ability, to each, according to their need." Would you give your 'A' to the most struggling student in the class? What good would it do anyways? The same goes for money! I really thought people weren't making these moronic arguments anymore, I guess I was wrong.
Profile Image for Rod.
45 reviews2 followers
November 7, 2008
I didn't like it because it was fiction parading as non-fiction, from the story to the author. William Ayers wrote this book, not Obama. And it's filled from the first page to the last with evasions, omissions, obfuscations, skirtings of the truth, and outright lies.
17 reviews2 followers
March 10, 2008
I used to think that a liberal was simply someone whose background and education was deficient of the facts needed to understand the full ramifications of their left-leaning policies. For example, in a debate I once heard Maxine Waters (D-CA) incredulously ask "Why not?!" when told that the government can't afford free healthcare, free college, free daycare, etc. Because apart from the land of fairies and puppy-dog tails where the Congresswoman, if not grew up, at least spent most of her summers, there are limits to a nations' economic resources.

But I was surprised to find that Barack Obama is not ignorant of these principles. Instead, his book follows this basic model:

"Even though [history/economics/common sense] show us that [liberal policy] has resulted in [devastating consequence] in the past, I still feel we have a duty to the American people to implement [liberal policy]."

For example, he'll preface a call for more protections for organized labor with the acknowledgement that such protections actually hurt American business and make it more difficult for the U.S. to compete in a global economy.

From the outset, Obama admits that he doesn't have any answers to these dilemmas and that his book is not a political road-map. So while I disagree with where he ends up ideologically, I've got to hand it to him for being familiar with and able to articulate both sides of an issue, and holding onto his liberal idealism even as he stares the facts in the face. Or as he calls it, "The Audacity of Hope."

Nevertheless, this was one of the hardest books I ever read because it was just pages and pages of political rhetoric.
Profile Image for Anne.
63 reviews
June 28, 2008
One reviewer said he'd read this whole book and was left not knowing what Barack Obama was for...in a way, I see his point--readers expecting a manifesto of voting positions will be sorely disappointed. For that, read the congressional record. Readers expecting a standard-bearer for the left will also be disappointed, as Obama's focus is not a solid 'Yes' check in all the predictable party line talking points. For instance, neither pro nor anti-war, he wholeheartedly supported the war in Afghanistan while wholeheartedly opposing the war in Iraq. He simultaneously opposes gay marriage while permitting states who so choose to grant equivalent civil rights regarding hospital visitation and health insurance coverage to gay partners, arguing that "in the absence of any meaningful consensus, the heightened focus on marriage [is:] a distraction from other, attainable measures to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians."

Take note, then: this book is more of an exploration into what Barack Obama thinks the role of the American government should be than what his role as President of the country should be--it lays out his understanding of how our democracy should function, and what he thinks its specific challenges are in today's global economy and international political climate. He de-emphasizes the pre-eminence of the executive branch we've become so accustomed to in the last 8 years, and thus the weight the President's personal agenda should carry.

In fact, the few pages discussing Obama's (superficially) mixed response to the issue of gay marriage contain a pretty good pointer towards "what he's for," not so easily described as an issue-by-issue Yes/No. Here's the quote you want to pay attention to:
"...I was reminded that is is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights."

Read The Audacity of Hope Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream through the lens of that quote, and you will understand what Barack Obama is for, namely: a functional government that is willing to put in the hard work of attacking complex issues where our population disagrees, and finding public policy in an achievable consensus. To his way of thinking, the federal government is not the be-all and end-all of American governance, and he is careful to point out that there are many issues Washington has no business imposing its views on when states say otherwise. In Obama's view, the enemy is not conservatism per se but the neocon king-making that has inflated the executive branch out of all proportion to the system of checks and balances planned by the writers of the Constitution. The enemy is government-crippling political polarization: ideology, zealotry, a willingness to ignore facts that don't support our predetermined worldview. The enemy is a broken executive branch at war with the judiciary. The enemy is the broken trust between government and its citizens.

I suspect this book is unsatisfying to a number of readers: Obama is consistently careful to examine "both" sides of every issue (as if there are only two!) and to admit some validity in each POV, not just the one he is personally inclined towards. I guess it's scary to see a politician examine his opponents' reasoning before making up his mind on an issue or a piece of legislation, but grow a pair already, America, and recognize that anyone unwilling to examine the issue as critically as possible is a puppet of his party, his ideology, or his financial backers. Reading The Audacity of Hope will give you insights into how Barack Obama's mind works: what his understanding of proper government and the rule of law are, and how and why he makes his decisions. It's possible you will decide his judgment is careful; it's possible you'll realize you want no part of a low-key wild card.

The book is well-titled: the hope of fixing our government, making it transparent, trusting and trustworthy, is a bold and almost shocking endeavor, to say the least. In his chapters on the Constitution, race, family, values, faith, and our place in the larger world, Obama's main point, over and over, is that America's current problem lies in how it does business on both sides of the aisle. A fundamental shift in approach to governance, he argues, is what's needed, not a party platform. That's pretty challenging, but also mundane. It's a kind of St Crispin's Day speech for national housekeeping, a banner cry for infrastructure..."Fix the furnace!" he shouts, even though it's so much sexier to buy a new car.

The Audacity of Hope is not a road map for Obama's future actions as senator or, potentially, president; it's insight into his understanding of our country's problems and how our practice of government has created or affected those problems. Reading it shows us how he thinks, which makes it a good companion for understanding the current presidential race as well as the remainder of his political career.

Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
545 reviews147 followers
February 25, 2019
I rarely read memoirs, even more rarely read biographies, and rarest of all read books by political figures. But we've been going through a "thing" in America lately, and now there's about two thousand Democrats all clamoring to announce their candidacy for president in 2020, and the news keeps getting me down by reporting the fragmented half-sentences our current commander-in-chief seems to think are appropriate for the leader of a country to spout off on camera, and so I got nostalgic for a leader who could string together a complete thought and deliver it with dignity. I felt I needed a little presidential presidentiality, and so I finally picked this book up.

Typically I dog-ear the pages with quotes I'd like to include in these reviews. Well, I dog-eared five of the ten pages of the prologue alone. As expected, Obama's writing (OK, Obama's speechwriter's writing) is made up of lofty rhetoric, and it is beautifully crafted and elegantly coherent. This is the kind of pro-America talk that makes me proud rather than uncomfortable. And it's not empty patriotic rhetoric, either; there are valuable, concise, and important history lessons throughout on things like the origin and application of the filibuster, the differences between constitutional originalism and relativism, the record of civil rights from the 1960s through the early 2000s, and more, all presented with the key purpose of developing a more nuanced view of American government than the "Us vs. Them" mentality so prevalent now. He also gives a direct, day-to-day look at present-day government operations with succinct and simple (admittedly oversimplified) explanations of how we got to have the problems we've got today and how embracing and enacting the potential that America's robust system makes possible could move us forward from them.

It's strange to read this book today. It's essentially a stump speech, written in 2006 prior to Obama's run for U.S. President which we now know worked out nicely for him. And now it's 2019, a couple years after he's left office, and we've gone pretty much the other way from what he outlined here as his objective in politics. He preached the value of inclusion rather than division, but amazingly his term seemed to be insurmountably polarizing rather than unifying. Speaking personally, I thrived during the Obama presidency, and that was Reagan's famous litmus test for a President's success—are you better off today than you were four years ago? To be honest, Obama wasn't even as extreme as I'd have liked, being a Far Left Liberal Lefty myself, and I always viewed him as pretty centrist. But I still supported him and I genuinely don't understand all the hate that's directed his way. Despite the troubling executive branch expansion that seemed to ramp up under his time in office, I loved the guy for his personality, his charm, his sense of humor. And I genuinely believed that he believed he was making the country a better place and I was confident that he was mature, measured, and adult enough to wield power responsibly. Looking back from the present, it's simply astonishing how things have changed (or in many cases, not changed at all).

3.5 stars out of 5 - it's perhaps impossible to separate the message from the man, but the writing here (from a ghostwriter, I'm sure, though none has been officially named) is really quite good. It is a little long at times, with some chapters losing steam long before before they wrap up, but my only significant complaint is the repeatedly overused sentence structure of making a point listing two balanced extremes, i.e. "When we consider both sides—Example A and Example B, Example C and Example D—we can see etc. etc. etc." All told this would probably be best delivered as a shorter speech or a series of talks. Treat yourself to the audiobook if you're able; Obama's speaking voice really enhances it.
Profile Image for Jan.
Author 9 books147 followers
December 8, 2008
Is it possible to think clearly if you can't speak and write clearly? It must be, because Bush and Palin can't be stupid and have made it as far as they have. Oh, but what a pleasure it will be to have a President whose writing can compare with some of the Federalist Papers by Madison or the speeches of Lincoln.

There are a few clichés in the book, and a few typos and grammatical or style errors that led me to think the editor, not the author, was asleep at the switch. There are several passages of stunningly beautiful writing. There are many dry witticisms and even some belly laughs to be had, such as when Obama trashes his Senate race opponent Alan Keyes for about a page and a half. Mostly, though, there's the lucid style of a clear, deep thinker, a law school lecturer, a lawyer who loves the Constitution.

I found the whole book comforting, but not the sort of comfort that leads to complacence. On the contrary, like his speeches, it was a call to action, but a less rhetorical and more closely reasoned one.

I liked it even more than Dreams from my Father, which surprised me. I'll be looking forward to whatever this man writes.
Profile Image for E.
380 reviews79 followers
June 7, 2008
Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with Obama's politics is of course the greatest factor in his or her enjoyment of the book. As an Obama supporter, I was a biased reader and indeed very impressed by his writing and reasoning. However, this book represents the core of his politics and is not simply the icing on the cake.

First of all, it must be noted that I was rather worried that he would disappoint as an author. Having read several politicians' books, I was used to that excessively friendly, angelic style meant to obscure the signs of ghostwriters and the general hypocrisy of compromising politics. (For example, Madeleine Albright's wailing about the inexplicable inhumanity toward juvenile war victims in Sudan looked rather over-the-top when conflated with her attempts to justify every U.S. bombing campaign she supported.) However, in THE AUDACITY OF HOPE the author avoids making promises he can't keep.

His approach to politics is based on the assumption that decency, optimism, and a willingness to hear the arguments of the opposition and understand their motivations is the only foreseeable path toward change in America. Everything else results either in a stalemate with both sides angry, or with a compromise wherein one side shortchanged. Cynics would call Obama's approach compromising, but compromising does not involve truly engaging the opposition with the hopes of finding a solution - it denotes abandoning one's own principles for the sake of personal political success. Having many friends with different political beliefs from my own, the book convinced me that JUST BEING RIGHT DOESN'T DO ANYTHING. With upfront respect and understanding, it is indeed possible to somehow discuss divisive issues like abortion, the war, gay rights, and universal healthcare, without insulting or simply silencing each other.

In closing, it must be noted that my grandmother who has voted Republican in every presidential election since the 1940's, has been known to make rather off-the-cuff racist remarks, and reads Ann Coulter, has also read THE AUDACITY OF HOPE and promptly vowed to vote for Obama in November. She may hold beliefs that I deplore, but Obama was able to appeal to her with his basic approach of optimism about America and respect toward all Americans. Such anecdotes of Obama causing party-crossover has been related before in many moments of this election year, but since it's my personal experience and I never, ever thought I would ever be voting with my grandmother for the same candidate, I cannot emphasize my awe enough. For me at least, this magnificent familial achievement is proof that his audacity of hope is in fact not at all naive.

Profile Image for Kirt.
322 reviews
April 19, 2018
Superb rhetorician. Polished delivery. (I listened to this as an audio book.) Consummate politician. (His words worked well with varying positions he may or may not take.) Would make a great friend and neighbor. (Genuine and endearing family anecdotes -- courtship, diapers, daughters with wardrobe issues, wife with absentee-husband issues.) But overall, it was clear that he and I see things through very different lenses, and that through his lens he sees himself being somewhat bigger than life. I disagree with many of his fundamental assumptions. Well-educated he may be, but his significant biases and inattention to facts betray him. Too smooth for comfort. And I still don't understand what "audacity of hope" means. "Hope" is not the right word for this book. How about "Scary"?
99 reviews13 followers
August 3, 2008
Often, I like to read books outloud. It helps me to stay attentive and be an active reader. Rarely is a book so pleasing to hear in my own voice as The Audacity of Hope was. Most political or historical writing can be cumbersome and difficult to explore in this manner. Barack Obama's writing, instead, is strong, clear, and easy to read, with a cadence and strong diction that many writers do not succeed to develop.

Part memoir, part declaration and history of liberal wisdom, this book was a true pleasure to experience. Research and anecdotes constitute the foundation of this work. The justification of liberal thought and politics, made to seem indubitable in this text, is enveloped here in themes of hope, optimism, and virtuous American strength.

In the chapter titled Opportunity, Obama tells us about speaking with Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man. Buffett had wanted to discuss taxes with Senator Obama, to express his dissatisfaction with Bush's tax benefits for the rich. Buffett, whose income comes from dividends and capital gains, is taxed at an effective rate of only half that of his own receptionist, an American who makes her living from working wages, not investment income. Buffett's success comes from a talent for acquiring money - he is a good business man. But, Buffett points out, this talent would be useless if he had been born into a different type of society, such that of hunter-gatherers for instance. In that case, being a man of neither extraordinary strength or speed, he would struggle to survive. He benefits from the developed free market organization of our society more than most other people, just as a big, strong man benefits in the hunter-gatherer society, where that man probably does more than his share of the hunting and gathering. "'It just makes sense that those of us who've benefited most from the market should pay a bigger share'" to maintain that society which favors them, says Buffett.

Continuing in that vein, in his chapter titled The World Beyond Our Borders, Obama turns to the words of President John F. Kennedy, saying that America would pledge itself to helping the poor and suffering people around the world "'not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help those who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.'"

In his justification of government-run Social Security, Obama shows an adroit understanding of the rationale behind FDR's plan to keep America safe from totalitarian government. He dismisses the conservative myth that the purpose of the "welfare state" is to transform government into a gigantic wet blanket weighing down the American people. Instead, Obama reminds us that in the years of The Great Depression, developed countries around the world were falling prey to Communism, to Fascism, to Socialism. FDR saved the American people and government from these dangers by "giving workers a larger share of the economic pie," thereby cutting the legs out from the fear and oppression of the people, that open doors for those freedom-stealing isms.

And, to understand how to avoid actually becoming the overbearing "welfare state" that conservatives fear so fervently, Obama turns to paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln: "that we will do collectively, through our government, only those things that we cannot do as well or at all individually and privately." Just as FDR insured the freedom and prosperity of America by investing in capitalism and democracy, Obama delineates how that wisdom will serve us still today.

Whether he is giving us political history or writing about how he fell in love with his wife and cherishes his daughters, Barack Obama employs skill as a wordsmith to exhibit a solid grasp of important family and public values. The Audacity of Hope, then, proves to be as instructive and wise as it is interesting and good.
Profile Image for Andrea.
18 reviews9 followers
September 22, 2008
I bought this book in April during an unexpectedly long layover at the Houston airport, read half of it, then forced myself to put it down as I was becoming too emotionally invested in the prospect of an Obama presidency and felt that I needed to pace myself, since it was only April and I am frankly still recovering from the political PTSD of November 2004. I picked it up again during another transcontinental trip this past week and determined to finish it this time, hoping to educate myself about the specifics of Obama's political vision so I can volunteer for him more effectively in October. It was easy to polish off--very readable, but substantive enough to merit a cover-to-cover journey. It left me with an arsenal of arguments to deploy the next time anyone claims that Obama is all platitudes and no plan, and it provided some indications of what kind of compromises he would likely pursue if (insha'Allah) he gets elected.

In short, the book confirmed a bunch of things that I already feel about Obama--first, that he has exceptional capacities for (self)-reflection and empathy, two qualities that are essential to just, humane, responsible leadership, and two qualities that have proven elusive at best to the platoon of d-bags who have been at America's helm for the past 7+ years. Second, that he has a measured, working knowledge of history that he draws on routinely to make sense of current dilemmas and debates and to posit logical solutions to supposedly intractable problems. And third, that he is genuinely invested in and skilled at carving out common ground on a whole range of contemporary issues--which I truly admire, since it is more than I can say for myself when faced with even the most benign political arguments at this point, despite my best efforts. The chapter on faith is particularly masterful--Obama's description of his own religious journey is moving and rational; I related to it as a non-believer, but I would imagine a believer could relate as well. Common ground at its best, on a topic that I usually find utterly alienating.

Admittedly, _The Audacity of Hope_ is more _Profiles in Courage_ than _A Theory of Justice_, but whatever, the dude is running for office, and it's pretty heartening that a presidential candidate has taken the time to generate some intellectual capital about American's political system, both as it is and as it should be. Not that I needed convincing.
Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
431 reviews1,372 followers
September 5, 2019
I'm late to the game. Barack Obama wrote The Audacity of Hope in 2006, before he'd even announced his intention to run for president. Here I am in 2019, hearing Obama's hopes and plans for the nation from the perspective of one who has seen his presidency play out, productive in many regards despite the concentrated wall of congressional obstruction, and passed along to the tin-pot dictator who currently, inexplicably holds the office. I listened to the Grammy-winning performance of Audacity, read by Obama himself, and it's refreshing to hear the thoughts of a politician who is reflective, curious, well-educated, and caring. I had also just listened to Michelle Obama's biography, Becoming, and it's fun to compare and contrast and hear him tell many of the same stories about their courtship and life together, but from his perspective.

Obama only refers occasionally to his upbringing (I assume most of that story is in his earlier book, Dreams of My Father), but picks up the story of his political campaigns and journey into becoming the junior senator from Illinois. It's partly a primer on running for office, the finances and scheduling nightmares involved, the trips on private planes, the ever-losing balancing act of maintaining family life, and what it's like to be a fresh new senator in the halls of congress. Obama talks a lot about the struggle to stay true to one's self and avoid the pitfalls of corporate influence while remaining open to the influence of individuals and voters who have aligned behind a cause. He also unpacks the impossibility of voting according to one's conscience when legislation is so rife with compromises and a hodgepodge of good and bad initiatives.

He can't avoid going into full professor mode, and I love it! A huge section of the book is Obama giving lecturing on the origins and functioning of the American system that is nuanced, multi-factorial, and a master class in economics. Another chapter on faith was intelligent, lucid, practical, and something all believers (and nonbelievers) should hear. I already respected Obama's views on religion, but this was a really powerful statement of them.

For these and more reasons, this is a quick, delightful and insightful read. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
965 reviews95 followers
January 9, 2009
Wow, this man is really going to be our President? I imagine most politicians except Dubya and Sarah Palin could recite some of the political and economic and foreign history that Obama talks about in this book, but they could never frame it so well or so inspirationally. Not only does he know the history, he thinks about it and clarifies it. He thinks! This president-elect loves America and Americans, what we are and what we can be. Fascinating book, and I loved getting a little glimpses into his personal life; such as how he forgot to buy a shower curtain for his Washington apartment when he came without his family and had to scrunch up against the wall to shower; I did that once while I was travel nursing, and it is funny and real. He is brilliant, but this book makes me even more proud of American for electing him; he is unlike any other president in my time, and I am hopeful for change.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,296 reviews120k followers
October 4, 2008
Obama wrote the book himself. That is a good thing. On the other hand, I was actively annoyed with the guy for the first 150 pages or so as it seemed to me that he was all about talking around subjects in order to let us know that he respected both sides’ views. But I stuck with the book and he eventually got around to citing some positions. They are, in general, your basic moderate Democratic views, with maybe a tilt left here and a little right there. We could do worse. He portrays himself as just a regular guy, albeit one with a rather exotic background, having lived in Hawaii and Indonesia, as well as Chicago. He lays it on a bit thick, I thought. Obama is a top notch orator, and he excels at stirring us with a cheerful, balanced view. At times it seemed to me that oratory was the only thing he was about.

He seems much taken with Robert Byrd and Bill Clinton. He tells of meeting Byrd and how Byrd’s advice to him was the very basic notion that it was critical to learn the rules of government. He should pay attention.

I picked up that he disparages the liberal wing of the party. On page 75 he refers to “the MoveOn.com crowd, the heirs of the political counterculture the senator had spent much of his career disdaining. Using the word “crowd” here indicates that Obama shares Byrd’s view. I believe there is more substance to those who support MoveOn. Without pressure from people who have strong beliefs we (democrats) will be condemned to be led by a host of politicians unwilling to stake out strong, progressive positions (see Hilary) and deliver us from this repressive, anti-working-people, anti-environment, anti civil-liberties, pro-theocracy nightmare. One Taliban is quite enough.

Quotes and comments

P 76
One of the surprising things about Washington is the amount of time spent arguing not about what the law should be, but rather what the law is. The simplest statute—a requirement, say, that companies provide bathroom breaks to their hourly workers—can become the subject of wildly different interpretations, depending on whom you’re talking to: the congressman who sponsored the provision, the staffer who drafted it, the department head whose job it is to enforce it, the lawyer whose client finds it inconvenient, or the judge who may be called upon to apply it…the diffusion of power between the branches, as well as between federal and state governments, means that no law is ever final, no battle ever truly finished; there is always the opportunity to strengthen or weaken what appears to be done, to water down a regulation or block its implementation, to contract an agency’s power with a cut in its budget, or to seize control of an issue where a vacuum has been left.

He follows this by pointing out how the Republicans simply ignored all our laws and understandings in applying their wishes to things like Abu Ghraib and Teri Schievo, the same thing they accuse the Dems of all the time. The conclusion is obvious to me, but he is unwilling to go there. There is no law. There is only power.

Addressing the filibuster he notes that it was used for many years by right-wingers to prevent civil right legislation, thus he has ambivalence.

P 82
The threat to eliminate the filibuster on judicial nominations was just one more example of Republicans changing the rules in the middle of the game.

…I would supported the filibuster of some of these judges, if only to signal to the White House the need to moderate its next selections. But elections ultimately meant something…Instead of relying on Senate procedures, there was one way to ensure that judges on the bench reflected our values, and that was to win at the polls…I wondered if, in our reliance on the courts to vindicate not only our rights but also our values, progressives had lost too much faith in democracy.

He conveniently ignores that the right has gleefully prevented Democratic presidents from doing just that. Again, he seems willing to unilaterally disarm against a sociopathic opponent.

P 88
So if we all believe in individual liberty and we all believe in these rules of democracy, what is the modern argument between conservatives and liberals really about? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that much of the time we are arguing about results—the actual decisions that the courts and the legislature make about the profound and difficult issues that help shape our lives…If it doesn’t help us to win, then we tend not to like it so much.

P 89
[He talks about the strict constructionist adherents and those who view the constitution as a dynamic entity, saying that he has sympathy for the former, but that he felt he would side with them only when the meaning of the framers was crystal clear regarding the issue at hand, and that when there was no such clarity, he was of the dynamic constutional bent.]

p 92
What the framework of our Constitution can do is organize the way by which we argue about our future. All of its elaborate machinery—its separation of powers and checks and balances and federalist principles and Bill of Rights—are designed to force us into a conversation, a “deliberative democracy” in which all citizens are required to engage in a process of testing their ideas against an external reality, persuading others of their point of view, and building shifting alliances of consent.

P 100
[Byrd’s advice] “Learn the rules,” he said. “Not just the rules, but the precedents as well.” He pointed to a series of thick binders behind him, each one affixed with a hand-written label. “Not many people bother to learn them these days. Everything is so rushed, so many demands on a senator’s time. But these rules unlock the power of the Senate. They’re the keys to the kingdom.”

P 116
I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the term “special interests,” which lumps together ExxonMobile and bricklayers, the pharmaceutical lobby and the parents of special-ed kids. Most political scientists would probably disagree with me, but to my mind, there’s a difference between a corporate lobby whose clout is based on money alone, and a group of like-minded individuals—whether they be textile workers, gun aficionados, veterans or family farmers—coming together to promote their interests; between those who use their economic power to magnify their political influence beyond what their numbers might justify, and those who are simply seeking to pool their votes to sway their representatives. The former subvert the very idea of democracy. The latter are its essence.

P 169
Instead of subsidizing the oil industry, we should end every single tax break the industry currently receives and demand that 1 percent of the revenue from oil companies with over $1 billion in quarterly profits go toward financing alternative energy research and the necessary infrastructure. Not only would such a project pay huge economic, foreign policy, and environmental dividends—it could be the vehicle by which we train an entire new generation of American scientists and engineers and a new source of export industries and high wage jobs.

P 219
Politics is hardly a science, and it too infrequently depends on reason. But in a pluralistic democracy, the same distinctions apply. Politics, like science, depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. Moreover, politics (unlike science) involves compromise, the art of the possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It insists on the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing…Any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion. This is not entirely foreign to religious doctrine; even those who claim the Bible’s inherent inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, based on a sense that some passages—the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity—are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life. The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a constitutional amendment banning it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

If a sense of proportion should guide Christian activism, it must also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach in the wall of separation. As the Supreme Court has properly recognized, context matters.
Profile Image for Meredith Holley.
Author 2 books2,236 followers
October 17, 2008
I could not help but think to myself, “Get a room,” as I finished the section titled “Our Constitution” in Senator Barack Obama’s most recently published book, The Audacity of Hope. I’ll admit that by the time I finished the first chapter, “Republicans and Democrats” I had a little crush on Senator Obama (sorry Michelle), so his love letter to the American Constitution felt a little like I had gone through his desk looking for a pen and come upon something I was never meant to see. I got the feeling that maybe he thinks the Constitution is more interesting than me, and that’s not good for my self-esteem, so it can’t be very good for health care now can it? Also, while I’m a person that carries around my own pocket Constitution because sometime it might come in handy, I still think Senator Obama’s passion for it is pretty nerdy. But I guess it’s something I should expect if I’m going to have a crush on a Constitutional Law professor.

Personal feelings aside, I found reading The Audacity of Hope one of the many good ways to answer the question asked by the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, “Just who is this Barack Obama?” - a question that has been inciting mobs and striking fear into the heart of the American countryside of late. I now feel confident in saying that this Barack Obama character is not Arab or Muslim; he does not want to kill our babies; and he does not have a terrorist plot against the United States government. He is, in fact, a member of the Senate and candidate for President in that very government. I was pretty sure of all these facts before I started the book, but when someone says something like, “Who is Barack Obama?” You have to think “I don’t know anything about that man. He’s probably a terrorist” (or you could think, “He’s that Senator guy nominated as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States.” It’s your choice).

While I started The Audacity of Hope with the admittedly biased view that Senator Obama was not a super-villain, my ultimate journey through the book was one of trying to figure out who he likes best. At first I thought, “Pick me!” But I started to get the feeling that there are a lot of other people giving me stiff competition. In discussing partisan politics, he says that one blogger called him an “idiot” for suggesting a strategy of working with the Republican majority. He says, “maybe the critics are right . . . We paint our faces red or blue and cheer our side and boo their side . . . For winning is all that matters.

“But I don’t think so. They are out there, I think to myself, those ordinary citizens who have grown up in the midst of all the political and cultural battles, but who have found a way – in their own lives, at least – to make peace with their neighbors, and themselves. 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 have a point”
(p 41-42). These were the words that wooed me. I know these people that he is talking about because they are me, and my family and my friends – people whose reality does not always match their ideals; people who work for a better life and take responsibility for their actions but have the capacity for forgiveness when responsibility isn’t enough. You can see how I would think I had a chance.

Then the Constitution came along, and after the Constitution the innovators of Google, and families losing income and homes because of exported jobs and health care costs, and then his wife and kids and mom. I was beginning to think there were a lot of people he likes more than me. Maybe it will never be a love connection.

If you are still questioning whether you know enough about the 2008 Democratic candidate for President in the areas of partisan politics, values, the Constitution, campaign financing, taxes, health care, faith, international politics, race, women’s issues, or family and you don’t feel like visiting his website at www.BarackObama.com, The Audacity of Hope very thoroughly discusses all of these issues and is one good way to determine where you agree and where you disagree with the Senator from Illinois. I reserved my copy at the Eugene Public Library, where all copies are currently checked out, but there is no wait list.

In his epilogue, Mr. Obama gives his motive for participating in politics – a motive that makes me suspicious that his goodwill toward the American people extends beyond just the people I know and to the very foundations of our country and government. He describes going for a run along the Mall in Washington, D.C. At the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he stops. “And in that place,” he writes, “I think about America and those who built it. This nation’s founders, who somehow rose above petty ambitions and narrow calculations to imagine a nation unfurling across a continent. And those like Lincoln and King, who ultimately laid down their lives in the service of perfecting an imperfect union. And all the faceless, nameless men and women, slaves and soldiers and tailors and butchers, constructing lives for themselves and their children and grandchildren, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, to fill the landscape of our collective dreams.

“It is that process I wish to be part of.

“My heart is filled with love for this country”
(p. 361-362).

I have decided not to act on my crush, because I think when Senator Obama says he loves us, he means like a friend. And despite my initial feelings of betrayal over his love affair with the Constitution, I’ve decided not to think of myself as the woman scorned, but to be the bigger person and agree to just be friends. Maybe I’ll even vote for him just to prove that he’s not the only one who can be gracious and forgiving in a difficult situation. Maybe I’ll vote for him because, like he reminded Senator McCain in the third presidential debate, a vote for President of the United States should be about confidence in a candidate’s plans and policies, not about hurt feelings. Call me audacious, but Senator Obama has my vote.
Profile Image for Beth F.
354 reviews329 followers
February 10, 2009
I pay as little attention as possible to the political arena in the hope that I can find a healthy balance between being peripherally aware of what’s going on without being sucked into the madness. I never intended to read this book and the only reason I picked it up in the first place was because it counted for a reading challenge I’m participating in through a group on this site.

Before starting the book, I had read some reviews written by other users and without fail, every single one reminded me of why I don’t enjoy politics. It would be one thing to read something like this, have an opinion and have that be the end of the story, but that is seldom the case. Because whenever you’re exposed to something that forces you to choose one side or the other, you make your decision and then run the risk of someone else choosing to loudly disagree with you and start an argument. Grrr, arguments.

Now the really fucked up thing about that is that I usually love arguments…or rather, I love to not back down from arguments, but where politics are involved, I have a tendency to shut down and just walk away from whoever has decided to oppose me (usually my husband—we have a lot of opposing political viewpoints, heh).

I thought the book was engaging. Obama is a deeply thoughtful individual and I was glad the book didn’t bore me (I normally find politics exceedingly dull). But aside from saying that, I don’t plan to write a proper “review” of this book or even explain what I liked about the book. It would be reasonable to assume that you either agree with him or don’t and as far as I’m concerned, there’s very little else to say past that without sparking an argument. More than likely my rating gives my opinion away, but whatever. I’m still not gonna go there.

I’m glad I read it—it was a stretch for me as a reader. But I’m not sure I’d willingly pick up another political interest book anytime in the near future. I prefer fiction.
23 reviews
June 10, 2008
I initially approached this book with a fairly open mind, but soon enough found myself filled not with hope but boredom. Obama certainly is a smart and likable guy, but his autobiographical meanderings and relatively trite, feel-good messages (e.g. that an advocate of abortion rights and a pro-life doctor can both be basically decent people) did not engage my mind at all. This is not to say that I think Senator Obama has not brought something positive to the public sphere - I think he has had a basically positive influence on politics, and furthermore believe he offers great promise as a leader. As for his book, however, I found it frilly, subtly self-righteous, and, ironically, pretty mundane. I didn't realize that we had ever lost the "American Dream", but if we have, I hope that people will have enough sense to look to themselves, their friends and loved ones, and to time-tested and true principles, and not to another politician promising the world, no matter how intelligent and charismatic he or she may be. That said, having good, basically honorable and decent people like Barack Obama in positions of leadership probably couldn't hurt things.
Profile Image for Jemppu.
500 reviews92 followers
September 15, 2022
Written with the clarity of mind of someone, who undoubtedly thanks to their background, and curiosity to keep learning from the past, manages to keep up their integrity and hold on to their core values despite having been caught in the political machine for years. More importantly, who with their worldly and unprivileged upbringing, possesses the insight, humility, empathy and self-awareness to be able to view things from an outsider's perspective, beyond any social barriers - refusing to succumb to any resentfulness or entitlement.

An inspiring read.

Reading updates.
Profile Image for Martin.
290 reviews26 followers
September 4, 2008
I just finished Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope,” which I started what feels like a year ago, but completing it at this point nicely dovetails in with all the unavoidable political coverage of late. While there’s certainly no way I would have started this book in the MIDST of all the conventions and coverage, I have to say it has come to a conclusion at a fitting time. I find Obama such a compelling, captivating figure, but I’m often frustrated at only being able to learn so much (of a substantive nature) about him and his philosophies through the mainstream media routes; I picked up a copy of this book in an airport when I decided I wanted to know more about the nuts & bolts of his policies and plans. The book ended up being an actual pleasure to read, not least because everything on TV – including Obama’s speeches and appearances – are tailor-made for the sound bites they invariably become. I wanted an uncompressed, unfiltered take on Obama’s thoughts, so what better route than to read his book, truly written, as far as I can tell, by himself (no ghostwriter necessary! Take THAT “John McCain with Mark Salter”!). Moreover, aside from getting the unvarnished details themselves, I found the writing spirited and for the most part elegant. Some passages were inspirational and I could hear Obama’s voice delivering the fiery words from a podium, but other passages were reflective and candid, with hints of an undercurrent of wry humor. (Of course this warms the cockles of my heart more than anything else. A smart, cool, youngish president with a sense of humor TOO? For real?)

Occasionally the book fell into some stock politician traps – like the classic “examples” that you typically get in speeches. You know the sorts of examples like: “America was built by hard-working men and women like so-and-so in Omaha, a lifelong butcher, who came up to shake my hand after a speech and told me…blah blah blah.” I find that technique both off-putting and ubiquitous in political speeches, and reading them in a book was no better. Yet those examples were kept at a relative minimum and didn’t do too much to distract from Obama’s words themselves. The book also suffered occasionally from repetition-syndrome, where certain examples keep coming back again and again to hammer some particular point home (and the reader over the head). Abortion is one such issue that continually got mentioned in the text as a thorny issue, an extraordinarily complicated debate, a source of powerful opinions, etc etc etc, ad nauseum. In those times I was reminded that this was, in the end, a book by a politician, carefully worded and cynically crafted for maximum impact (we can call it what it is without diminishing it, right?).

For the most part, I found the book refreshingly free of overt guile or manipulation. Just well-crafted prose expressing ideas, hopes, and opinions – some concrete, some theoretical. Some high-flown, some pure common-sense. I especially enjoyed the mini-bouts of constitutional history from the former constitutional law instructor. Overall, I found the whole work instructive and worthwhile from a political perspective, and found my already high esteem for Obama himself raised by my newfound appreciation of his writing abilities. It’s not a page-turner or a beach-book, but it was certainly enjoyable to read, and I would recommend “The Audacity of Hope” to anyone looking to get a little more detail and thoroughness than one can get in a 30-second rebuttal on TV. I have to say, reading it continued to get me excited about the prospect of a President Obama.
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