Review

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

by Barack Obama



This, the second book by the Democratic junior senator from
Illinois, fits no literary pigeonhole very comfortably. It is part
personal history, part history lesson, part policy manifesto and
part philosophical tract.


Barack Obama has already admitted thinking about running for
President in 2008, so many may dismiss his book as a mere campaign
tactic. Even if that is so, however, his thoughtful and
wide-ranging book is worth reading for the reasonableness of its
ideas and the grace of its style. He has thought about an awful lot
of problems that we all should think about, whether or not we agree
with his ideas or the solutions he offers.


Obama looks at the world from a very different angle than most
American politicians. He was born in Hawaii 45 years ago of a
Kenyan father and an American mother. He grew up in Hawaii and
Indonesia (the home of his stepfather), then was sent to live with
grandparents on the US mainland. His natural interest in racial and
social-political issues led him, after college and law school, into
community activism and, inevitably, politics. He served eight years
in the Illinois state senate before being elected to the US Senate
in 2004. Chosen as keynote speaker for the 2004 Democratic
convention, he became an instant political celebrity.


Biographical details are sprinkled throughout the book as needed,
but the main burden of Obama's text is to expound ideas on just
about every vexing issue before the country today: Iraq,
immigration, education reform, foreign policy, taxation, political
partisanship, health care, the pension system, race relations,
family life, energy independence, affirmative action, the
confluence of religion and politics, campaign financing --- all are
considered in elegant, measured prose. (When a politician writes
this well, cynics will ask the question: Did he write it himself? I
feel he did --- there is no mention of a collaborator or
ghostwriter, and the personal details have an authentic
ring.)


Obama comes across as a thoughtful moderate liberal, willing to at
least listen to opposing arguments and even willing, now and then,
to concede them some validity. George W. Bush, unsurprisingly, gets
low grades on almost all counts, but Obama at least skewers him
with civility. Fire and brimstone are not in his fuel supply.


Like most liberals, Obama believes that government has a role to
play in bringing about change for the better in American life. The
doctrinaire conservatives who have held power in recent
administrations, he says, have done much harm. He believes,
however, that overtly race-based solutions to social problems are
less effective than general rules that apply to everyone, though
they may well benefit minorities more than whites. He wants America
to support and help strengthen international organizations like the
UN, and he calls upon the black community that produced him to get
down to business in combating the social ills that prevent blacks
from making faster progress toward the American mainstream.


All this --- and much more --- is addressed in prose that flows
without too often turning turgid. Clichés are not entirely
absent, but they are blessedly few. Perhaps the book's biggest
cliché is its pompous title, which Obama lifted from a
clergyman's discourse and used in his convention keynote
speech.


Readers who feel compelled to locate Barack Obama on the left-right
political spectrum will probably end up placing him close to Bill
Clinton in the left-center area. At any rate, he has put himself on
public record pretty thoroughly in this book, and we now have two
years to parse him in even greater detail.


   
















Reviewed by Robert Finn (Robertfinn@aol.com) on December 22, 2010

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

  • Publication Date: October 17, 2006
  • Genres: Current Affairs, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown
  • ISBN-10: 0307237699
  • ISBN-13: 9780307237699