The audacity of hope : thoughts on reclaiming the American dream

by Barack Obama

Hardcover, 2006




New York : Crown Publishers, c2006.


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

Media reviews

Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois and the Democratic Party’s new rock star, is that rare politician who can actually write — and write movingly and genuinely about himself.

User reviews

LibraryThing member JonArnold
Or as it should probably be known, Barack Obama's first election manifesto. Obama is unquestionably the most exciting political figure in the Western hemisphere in my lifetime. Rather than the tired dogmas that have dragged down previous election campaigns he ran on a platform of positivity and
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hope, summed by his simple and brilliant slogan 'Yes, we can'. It was inclusive and challenging to the electorate, invigorating.

The hook here is to see what we can divine of Obama's possible actions as President. It's clear from the book that he's genuinely unaffected by the cynicism that often develops in politicians, but that his enthusiasm is tempered by intelligence and thoroughness, setting forth what he sees as the major issues facing modern America and possible solutions.And instead of rendering politics a dry, dead subject, as professional politicians often do, Obama makes the subject engaging. Policy is never talked about in abstract terms, he always gives a human dimension to the issues and has a gift for striking imagery that encapsulates the ideas he's trying to get across (speeches to an empty Senate chamber, the stunning view from a jet). And the prose itself is beautiful, although occasionally becoming flowery. It's a book you couldn't imagine any of his recent predecessors (particularly the immediate one) having the sincerity, compassion or way with words to write. Whereas the previous regime tried to link compassion with conservatism, one read of this book should show them what compassion truly looks like, and in this case it isn't just a hollow word.

Obama himself comes across as a man of rare perspective, probably due to his eclectic, catholic (the small c is crucial there) upbringing. He seems open to ideas and genuinely thoughtful as to the wide ranging effects policies may have. His beliefs and conclusions are based on thoughtful analysis tempered with human compassion - almsot too good to be true. I actually finished the book even more fascinated by the possibilities of Obama's term. If he is a man of deeds as well as words, and he's alllowed to follow the guidelines he sets down here, then his Presidency may live up to the hope and expectations placed upon it.
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LibraryThing member louisu
I just started reading the Audcacity of Hope. I purchased it over a month ago with the intention of reading it right away. It is one of those books I felt that I should read to get me started on thinking and fantasizing about the future. Almost immediately I put it aside hoping for the right moment
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and mindset to delve into a book of this scope. High expectations after all I thought Dreams of My Father was a great read. People would see come over and see Audacity of Hope sitting on my shelf and ask what I thought. My response I haven't read it. They would look at all the others books in my home and understand I had other things to read. Mostly I think they wanted to talk about with me since I am the reader in my group of friends. Also the buzz is so hot on Obama that he fuels lots of conversation good or bad. Yesterday after finishing Zorro and obviously disappointed I needed a good book. I needed something to rev up the engine and get my brain out of the slump its been in for quite some time. I lost my job and all last week and honestly needed something to restore confidence that this new year would be better than last year.

I just finished it; it was a fun ride that took up most of last night and most of my day. Stopping for reruns of Grey's Anatomy and some small errands throughout the day was a great time to sit and think about the book. This is a book about people and the American dream. An important note in the beginning that needs to be clear is that there is no right or wrong for many of the issues that politicians and people face everyday. Much of these decisions are made based on the perspective and background of the person making them. A person against abortion from his perspective is right about from the way he thinks and feels about the topic. A person for abortion has the same idea based on his background. Hard questions that Obama doesn't try to answer instead he thinks that people should take the time to listen to what the other person has to say before judging or choosing a side. The old adage to walk a mile an another man's shoes.

That is what this books is about that we as Americans need the take to see where the world is going and how we are falling behind. The education in much of our schools doesn't prepare us for the global economy that is quickly taking over. ( My own thoughts from this train of thought. Funny the catalyst for the new global economy is the U.S. economic policies and ideas catching on like wildfire through much of the world. SO in fact by promoting these ideas and policies globally we are painting ourselves in a corner.)

The one limitation in this book is that he in fact doesn't provide solid answers for many of the problems that America is facing. Instead he presents ideas that may in fact force Americans to think and create the solutions for the problems. Here is the point people Obama is a man who believes that the key to change in America rests not in his hands, but in the hands of the regular everyday person. People are the centerpiece of this book and it is supposed to light a fire under our asses to make something of ourselves. The role of our government and the role of the citizen is a relationship that moves like two currents running in the ocean sometimes on the opposite directions and sometimes in the same one. The idea is that policies and government need to be able to change with the needs of the people instead of trying to create an ideal America. We should face reality and work with the America that exists now. The constitution itself is a living document and is meant to be so that as time passes the document itself must grow and adapt to changing society. Hence people need to be willing to make the same changes in how they think about their role in society.

Obama himself touches on most of the aspects of society that I would expect him to hit upon. Mostly he writes about and comes back to the American Dream being about people and that the greatest changes that can be made in America aren't going to happen overnight. Hard work, diligence, stubbornness, understanding, and decency may put us in the right direction. The book is full of little gems about people and America that get me all riled up for this country, mostly it makes me wonder what the hell is this next year going to be like and how much of that change is going to occur because of me. I guess it is about hope that maybe we all can make a difference small steps at time.

People read it, hell read it twice. Then think about it. Then talk about it. Hopefully that will be the beginnings of something good.
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LibraryThing member seekingflight
Hope _is_ audacious, and I am usually a sceptic. I fear the politics of personality, where style can take precedence over substance. I expect disappointment, knowing that no-one can live up to the very high expectations that people have of Obama at this time. No-one can live under media scrutiny
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that intense, and maintain an unblemished public profile. I’m not even sure that anyone could live surrounded by all the trappings of power, and public adulation, and not be adversely affected. And when I find myself agreeing with page upon page of content at a time, I worry that I am being swept away by rhetoric, and suspending my own powers of critical thinking. Or worse, that I am agreeing with trivial banalities, of little practical importance.

And yet I was impressed by this book, and the way of thinking about politics that Obama outlines in its pages. The book is well-structured and very readable, with each chapter starting with a personal anecdote that serves as a helpful introduction and entry point to each subject (Republicans and Democrats, values, the constitution, politics, opportunity, faith, race, the world beyond America’s borders, and family). I feel that Obama brings to light a number of themes that are a welcome addition to political discourse in any counry (i.e., the role of values and empathy in politics, the capacity to seek consensus and assume one's opponents are acting in good faith etc.).

And I find myself thinking that regardless of what happens in the future, the capacity to hope, and to hold our leaders to higher standards, is a good thing. This week – a very appropriate time to be reading this book – I feel as if I myself have also been transformed from cautiously to audaciously hopeful!!
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LibraryThing member savageknight
I've never before read a book by someone in politics but there was something about Obama that made me want to find out more about him. I have to admit to being extremely impressed with how he comes across as a logical, informed, sophisticated, "real" man with a sharp intellect. Although the first
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part of the book was a little long to read (not really knowing any American Political History), the second part where he touches upon the
people, the future, what's important, race, faith, and so much more is extremely well thought-out and presented. As with anyone, I may not agree with everything he does, but it's refreshing to see how he truly believes in listening to the people and being open to discussions (versus accepting everything on blind faith).
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LibraryThing member daddy-dude
An interesting read and even more interesting listening to Obama read his own work. I have to say that I especially liked the fact his views of topics were thought out and examined. Even where I disagree very strongly, I respect the fact he has more to show for his stance than a lousy sound-byte
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that will sell on the evening news.

I just pray that the same thoughtfulness and prayer goes into his work as President.
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LibraryThing member starstorm
I really don't read non-fiction, so I expected to have a hard time getting through this book, but after hearing Mr. Obama speak numerous times during the campaign, I really wanted to see if his inspirational voice carried over into his writing. I shouldn't have wondered, and I shouldn't have
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worried about being bored by this book! What a wonderful portrait of our President-to-be, told with eloquence, wit, and gentle humor. I know that I will probably not agree with every decision he makes, despite voting for him, but this book convinces me that I voted for the type of person I want running my country.
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LibraryThing member carolcarter
I could read Obama all day. He is as eloquent a writer as he is a speaker. Reading his book I was impressed with the scope of his brilliance.

With the possible exception of Jimmy Carter, never in my lifetime have we had a President Elect whose life experiences mirror those of the majority of us. In
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The Audacity Of Hope Obama gives a minimal biography but a very clear and concise exposition of his vision. Written not long after his election to the U.S. Senate, Obama writes with humor and compassion (the real kind), detailing the struggles of the campaign trail and the stresses on his marriage and family life. At one point he calls Michelle to tell her about an important amendment that has passed and she cuts him off to tell him they have ants and would he please pick up ant traps on the way home. He writes lovingly of his girls and what he hopes for them, and all of us, for the future.

Beyond this, Audacity is an easily read brief history of the Constitution and its origins. If you didn't pay attention to history in school, Obama can bring you up to speed rapidly - not an in-depth look, but adequate to refresh your mind. Having taught constitutional law, Obama knows his stuff. In the chapter on foreign policy he refers frequently to the founding fathers and those of our leaders who, of necessity, had to interpret the constitution in times of severe crisis.

And, finally, Audacity is the story of Obama's political education. He recounts in brief his tenure with the Illinois legislature and the vicissitudes of the campaign trail which are many. He gives a very good look into the hows and whys of politics and the way it is practised today. He takes us into the Senate with him as he begins his brief time there. On his first day as a U.S. Senator a rather prescient young reporter asks him how he sees his role in history, much to the delight of the more seasoned journalists. And yet his role is now assured in history. One of the many motifs running through Obama's book is his belief in the necessity and his constant attempt to stay in touch with his constituents. He talks about the luxury of using private jets to do some of the mighty load of travelling around the country. And then he recounts some of the encounters he has while using regular airlines. Despite the difficulties, he reiterates that he can't hear people's stories while travelling on a private jet. And Obama did hear a lot of stories while he was a Senator. One of the most Kafkaesque came from a young man in Galesburg who, along with everyone else, had lost his job when Maytag chose to go to Mexico for its work force. Obama asked about retraining but apparently there were no jobs left to train for and this: "One of the younger men in the group told me a particularly cruel story: He had made up his mind to retrain as a computer technician, but a week into his courses, Maytag called him back. The Maytag work was temporary, but according to the rules, if this man refused to accept Maytag's offer, he'd no longer be eligible for retraining money. If, on the other hand, he did go back to Maytag and dropped out of the courses he was already taking, then the federal agency would consider him to have used up his one-time training opportunity and wouldn't pay for any retraining in the future." Talk about a catch-22. This is how many Americans live in the real world and is something Obama understands.

If you wish to understand where Obama comes from and where he wishes to go you could do no better than this book and it is lovely reading, difficult to put down. It is also comprehensive and if you wish to know what kind of policies Obama will be looking to pursue as President this book will give you a blueprint. I am hoping against hope that we are all going on a great ride to change our country back closer to what it was a few short years ago. It was not perfect then, nor ever has been, but it was light years better than it is now.
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LibraryThing member macii
I can't tell you how excited I was to read this book. During some of the more dry portions of Applebee's America, I plowed through because I wanted to read The Audacity of Hope.

Barack Obama strikes me as presidential (I'm excited that he's running, but the decision as to who will get my vote is a
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long way off).

Ultimatley, this book outlines how Mr. Obama feels about the issues. Often, I found myself agreeing with him, but of course not always. He brings very educated, reasonable, and creative ideas to the table.

Someone borrowed this book from me so I can't really refresh myself to give you more specifics. Overall, its a smooth, enlightening read. The only chapter that was difficult for me to get through was on the economy, frankly, if I enjoyed discussing and learning about the economy, I'm sure I would have liked this chapter as well. The fact of the matter is, discourse of the economy doesn't get my wheels spinning, but Mr. Obama was able to bring some interesting points forward.

I came away feeling like Barack Obama could be the next president and that if he were president he would be the man to unify our country and lead us through changing times. He may not always agree with you, but I get the strong impression that he values other's point of views and understands why a particular issue is important.

This is a must read if you are interested in the issues and politics and whether you are a Republican, Idependent, or Democrat doesn't matter. It never hurt anyone to understand another perspective.
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LibraryThing member mramos
Democratic senator Barack Obama from Illinois uses this book to detail his general ideas to improve the country. He discusses American values, the U.S. Constitution, religion, globalization, race and other subjects that should be of interest and importance to voters. Though he does not propose any
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solutions, you can at least see where his base line understandings are on these subjects. Whether you agree with his politics or not I recommend you read this book. It is also a very fast read.
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LibraryThing member ragwaine
Okay so I've always been a huge Obama fan. I went door-to-door for him in 2008 and 2012, I took my son to one of his rallies (my first political rally and his), but even after that I was totally blown away by this book. I swear I wanted to quote 90% of the lines in the book on FB.

He's a brilliant
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man and so it's bittersweet to be driving around in my car listening to him speak while knowing the current president speaks like a fifth-grader (sorry fifth graders).

I would definitely recommend this book to conservatives who might think it would be a book constantly bashing them. In the book he blasts both sides about equally. He talks about his opinions but also makes sure to talk about what he DOES agree with about the other side's argument. In fact, much of the books is devoted to trying to show how alike people are and how the answer is in rising above the hype and being able to see both "sides".
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LibraryThing member whirled
The Audacity Of Hope offers a compelling precis of Obama's philosophies, built on his own life experiences and what he considers the pivotal moments in US political history. Like any good politician, Obama tries his best not to offend and makes clear his belief in the power of consensus, evident
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now in his acts as President. And, like any political biography, the book has its dry patches (like the chapter on opportunity that goes on and on). Overall though, the President proves he is a deep thinker who can clearly articulate his ideas. After eight years of Bush, that's no small thing.
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LibraryThing member MochaSprinkle
I can't remember the last time I paid so much attention to the presidency... or even any political office, for that matter. But after hearing a few of his speeches, I couldn't help but think "who is this man?"

The book covers a little bit about his personal and political pasts as well as the
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present situation of our beloved America. It's hugely inspiring and at the end of it all, I feel great that I know a little bit about my country's president.

I may not always agree with his political agenda and his decisions, but then I think of this book and I immediately remember the person he is and that's someone of strong conviction with a great head on his shoulders. He's my president and I'll support his decisions and hope for the best...
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LibraryThing member eba1999
Mr. Obama has a way with words. He's smart, humble, and clear-thinking. This book displays an honest vulnerability that is rare among regular folks, let alone politicians. It's worth reading whether Obama becomes #44 or not because of his insight into the political process and into current social
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and political issues.
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LibraryThing member pbirch01
Barack Obama follows up his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention with a book aiming to deal with almost every political issue and cater to a wide range of readers (presumable American voters). The idea is interesting in theory, but ends up being a litany of problems with few solutions offered.
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There are general solutions offered and most of them involve more social programs, increasing taxes and promises that could be difficult for any politician to deliver on. Obama also covers how difficult life is as a politician. He mentions how difficult it is for a bill to be passed and the public does not understand how much effort it takes for a bill to pass in its original form. The book does have some interesting parts which are mostly centered around his upbringing as well as personal encounters with members of Congress, State politicians, as well as the President. Unfortunately, these parts are not enough to carry the entire book and I felt I was audacious in just trying to finish it.
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LibraryThing member tangentrider
Listening to this, I understand why so many voted for Obama and why I did not and will not. It was worth the read for that reason if nothing else.
LibraryThing member davidpwithun
Very interesting and encouraging to read. I don't always agree with him, but I can see his reasons for believing as he does. I think that his book gives a very honest and positive assessment of America and its politics.
LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
In The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, then-Senator Barack Obama offers “personal reflections on those values and ideals that have led [him] to public life, some thoughts on the ways that our current political discourse unnecessarily divides us, and [his] own best
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assessment – based on [his] experience as a senator and lawyer, husband and father, Christian and skeptic – of the ways we can ground our politics in the notion of a common good” (pg. 9). The 2006 book outlined the Senator’s beliefs, growing out of his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and served as his introduction to the electorate prior to the 2008 presidential election. Though the book is now thirteen years old, much of President Obama’s discussion of partisan gridlock and his desire to find ways to better serve his constituents seems all too prescient. For those looking for hope or something to believe in in these troubling times, The Audacity of Hope continues to offer wisdom.
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LibraryThing member brianinbuffalo
A highly readable book that provides some thought-provoking ideas on a laundry list of timely topics (the education system, the environment, affordable health care, globalization, etc.) Obama articulates many of the challenges we face in the coming years. He also serves up some solutions, albeit in
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a more generalized, thumbnail fashion. Some would make compelling arguments that his "fixes" make sense, while others would be quick to point out that many of his solutions are too vague. Example: we shouldn't be pursuing free trade -- we should be focusing on promoting fair trade. Well said. But what specific policies would advance such an agenda? The tired cliche says it best: "The devil lies in the details." Still, Obama's book offers some vivid insights into the problems we face. Readers are also treated to a revealing glimpse into the life of a man who is likely to remain in the political limelight for quite some time.
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LibraryThing member lolita999
very interesting
LibraryThing member bsanner
While most of Obama’s political stands parallel the Democratic party line, his clear articulation and vision set him apart not only as a great politician but a great American. The Audacity of Hope attempts to transcend partisan politics and reclaim a less sensationalized, more hopeful political
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discussion. His nuance and thoughtfulness are matched only by his personal charisma and vulnerability. More to the point, even where I might disagree with particular policy statements, Obama’s expresses something of the hopefulness, honesty, and clarity that I believe Americans desire from their politicians and politic discourse.
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LibraryThing member veganbaby
It is refreshing to see a politician with an optimistic view that we can improve our country. He has immense respect for the women in his life, which I hope transfers into respect for women in society.
I did disagree with him on some points, but for the most part I found myself nodding in agreement
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(to no one in particular.)
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LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
An intelligent book by a man who now happens to be our current President. I learned quite a bit by reading this. The opinions that Obama presents are well-thought out. It's readable, too!
LibraryThing member kellyholmes
Before I go any further, I have a quick public service announcement: Regardless of which candidate strikes your fancy, don't forget to register to vote before your state's registration deadline. A country where half the citizens don't participate in the process of choosing its leader is not a
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healthy country!

With that said, I loved this book. It took a couple chapters to get to the juicy stuff of specific ideas for solutions to our nation's problems. But looking back on the beginning of the book, I realize how important it was for Obama to start off talking about values and the common threads that pull Americans together—no matter whether they consider themselves blue, red, purple, or indifferent to politics.

And if nothing else, reading this book cemented my resolve to not only vote for Obama but to donate to the campaign and volunteer for him as well. Obama is a leader who can find common ground and lead us toward solutions to the problems that are tearing us apart as a country.

Obama is by no means my political kindred spirit or anything. I will probably always be more progressive than any Presidential candidate with a real shot at the White House. But Obama shares the values I hold most dear. We feel the call to take care of our fellow humans when we can, and not just when we live in the same house or the same neighborhood. We try not to devolve into "us and them" when thinking and speaking about those who don't share our exact political views. We realize that luck plays a large part in providing the opportunities you have for a good education, a good job, and a healthy life.

I was lucky to have been born into a middle-class family who could afford to live in a neighborhood that had excellent schools. Not to mention I was born with white skin that sadly, makes a lot of things in this country more accessible. Did I work hard to achieve what I have in life—a healthy daughter, a great job, a beautiful home? Sure. But does that mean that someone who cleans homes like mine for a living and has three kids at home and another job at night and lives in a tiny apartment on the "wrong" side of town works any less hard than I do? I know in my bones they work harder, much harder. So why am I more deserving of the things I have? I'm not. Mainly, I'm lucky.

We are stronger as a nation—as a world—when we all have the opportunity to live a healthy, happy life. Obama recognizes that and has great ideas for providing that opportunity to more people, and that's a candidate I can get behind.

Finally, I'd like to share a few quotes that rang true to me:

* "...the Ownership Society doesn't even try to spread the risks and rewards of the new economy among all Americans. Instead, it simply magnifies the uneven risks and rewards of today's winner-take-all economy. If you are healthy or wealthy or just plain lucky, then you will become more so. If you are poor or sick or catch a bad break, you will have nobody to look to for help. That's not a recipe for sustained economic growth or the maintenance of a strong American middle class. It's certainly not a recipe for social cohesion. It runs counter to those values that say we have a stake in each other's success. It's not who we are as a people."

* "So let's be clear. The rich in America have little to complain about. Between 1971 and 2001, while the median wage and salary income of the average worker showed literally no gain, the income of the top hundredth of a percent went up almost 500 percent. The distribution of wealth is even more skewed, and levels of inequality are now higher than at any time since the Gilded Age. These trends were already at work throughout the nineties. Clinton's tax policies simply slowed them down a bit. Bush's tax cuts made them words.

I point out these facts not—as Republican talking points would have it—to stir up class envy. I admire many Americans of great wealth and don't begrudge their success in the least. I know that many if not most have earned it through hard work, building businesses and creating jobs and providing value to their customers. I simply believe that those of us who have benefited most from this new economy can best afford to shoulder the obligation of ensuring every American child has a chance for that same success. And perhaps I possess a certain Midwestern sensibility that I inherited from my mother and her parents...: that at a certain point one has enough, that you can derive as much pleasure from a Picasso hanging in a museum as from one that's hanging in your den, that you can get an awfully good meal in a restaurant for less than twenty dollars, and that once your drapes cost more than the average American's yearly salary, then you can afford to pay a bit more in taxes.

More than anything, it is that sense—that despite great differences in wealth, we rise and fall together—that we can't afford to lose. As the pace of change accelerates, with some rising and many falling, that sense of common kinship becomes harder to maintain. ...we have always been in a constant balancing act between self-interest and community, markets and democracy, the concentration of wealth and power and the opening up of opportunity. We've lost that balance in Washington, I think. With all of us scrambling to raise money for campaigns, with unions weakened and the press distracted and lobbyists for the powerful pressing their full advantage, there are few countervailing voices to remind us of who we are and where we've come from, and to affirm our bonds with one another."

* On his daughter Sasha's birthday party, where she sat in the middle of a parachute: "On the count of three, Sasha was hoisted up into the air and back down again, then up for a second time, and then for a third. And each time she rose above the billowing sail, she laughed and laughed with a look of pure joy.

I wonder if Sasha will remember that moment when she is grown. Probably not; it seems as if I can retrieve only the barest fragments of memory from when I was five. But I suspect that the happiness she felt on that parachute registers permanently in her; that such moments accumulate and embed themselves in a child's character, becoming a part of their soul. Sometimes, when I listen to [my wife] Michelle talk about her father, I hear the echo of such joy in her, the love and respect that [her father] Frasier Robinson earned not through fame or spectacular deeds but through small, daily, ordinary acts—a love he earned by being there. And I ask myself whether my daughters will be able to speak of me in that same way."

So if you like what you've read here, check out Obama's site and learn more about his vision for this country.
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LibraryThing member foof2you
In light of Obama's election I read this book and found it interesting. This book looks at many subjects in American life from race, politics, family and faith to name a few. Obama gives a little history on the various topics and then suggest how he would change these aspects. It gives insight to
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how he will govern and how he views these areas of American life.
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LibraryThing member monarchi
Although I've been meaning to read this book since it came out three years ago, it's especially timely now, with Obama in the White House. The Audacity of Hope follows Obama's journey to the Senate seat he occupied before becoming president, exploring the issues he sees as as important to modern
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American society and politics.
The book is well written and engaging, although Obama has a tendency to devolve into policy speak a bit more often than I'd like – reading this book, I was more interested in his thought processes than in the exact number of jobs he believed need to be created. Still, the book is an honest and serious reflection on the state of American politics and what it means to be a politician. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a better understanding of where the current President of the United States is coming from, or who simply wants a piece of genial political conversation.
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Audie Award (Finalist — 2010)
British Book Award (Shortlist — shortlist — 2009)
Grammy Award (Winner — 2008)
BCALA Literary Awards (Winner — Nonfiction — 2007)
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Nominee — Nonfiction — 2007)



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