Kelly's Reviews > The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
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's review
Jan 19, 09

bookshelves: nonfiction, political
Read in September, 2008

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 healthy country![return:][return:]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.[return:][return:]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.[return:][return:]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.[return:][return:]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.[return:][return:]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.[return:][return:]Finally, I'd like to share a few quotes that rang true to me:[return:][return:] * "...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."[return:][return:] * "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.[return:][return:] 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.[return:][return:] 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."[return:][return:] * 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.[return:][return:] 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."[return:][return:]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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