Some years after the publication of his first book, Dreams from my Father, United States president Barack Obama followed up with Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, written when he was Illinois state senator and published in 2006.
Here are his philosophical thoughts on how United States should be run, which direction it should go for the future, what shape its foreign policy should take, and other musings on politics, faith, and family.
Obama is convinced that, among many other things, America needs to improve its educational programs in science and mathematics, find alternative sources of energy to ease dependence on foreign sources of oil, and inculcate a work-life balance attitude so that stressed families can cope with the pressures of daily life without burning out.
The book is well-researched; Obama’s reflections and recommendations are clear-headed and logical. Though his own personal beliefs may impact his view of American national issues, he acknowledges that his stances may be “misguided” and that other options are possible.
For example, his opposition to gay marriage is faith-based; yet, he declares that “…it 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.” Fence-sitting? Or a willingness to listed to the other side and seek a compromise acceptable to the majority, if not all?
Throughout the text, there pervades a spirit of tolerance, open-mindedness, understanding, love, and yes, hope and change, those two keywords of his campaign. But these are no mere catchphrases; Obama believes in these virtues, and that through them the United States will overcome its problems and become stronger and better.
He explains where the title of the book comes from. Reflecting upon the life stories of the men and women he met in his work as a community organizer, legislator, and senator, those lives full of struggles and hardship borne with “a relentless optimism”, he says
It brought to mind a phrase that my pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., had once used in a sermon.
The audacity of hope.
That was the best of the American spirit, I thought – having the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary that we could restore a sense of community 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.
It was that audacity, I thought, that joined us as one people. It was that pervasive spirit of hope that tied my own family’s story to the larger American story, and my story to those of the voters I sought to represent.
It remains to be seen, now that he is president of the world’s only superpower, whether he will hew to the philosophy he has sketched out here, or deviate to follow party lines, give in to pressure from other interests, or compromise to achieve desired results.
This is so far my favorite portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama. Taken at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington, 23 March 2009. Reuters/Jason Reed.
The book is a must-have. For here we see the character of the man leading the United States and influencing the policies of a great many other countries. Here is his map for the future. Here we see one man’s vision for his country and his dream for stability, freedom, and, yes – world peace.