Normally I post book reviews on my personal blog, Musings, Mischief and Mayhem, unless the book (or other item) pertains in some way to educate or homeschooling. But I have recently read Barack Obama’s two books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father and thought that the readers here at Leaping From The Box would enjoy hearing about them also. So, today I will begin the first of a three-part review of Audacity of Hope, Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream, with a review of Dreams from My Father to appear in the near future.
The Audacity of Hope
The Audacity of Hope, Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream was a slow read, not because it was not interesting, but because each chapter gave you cause to stop, think, consider and reread sections.
Audacity contains a prologue and epilogue and then nine chapters. Each chapter goes in some depth about the past choices that America made, both as a country and as individuals, to bring us to where we are now in each of these areas. Obama then explores what may occur if we continue on our present course and what alternative courses we could choose.
Republicans and Democrats
Obama discusses the relatively recent events that led to our “great political divide” and explains what politicians gain from adopting polarizing viewpoints. Unfortunately, their gain is our loss. As Obama states, “It is such doctrinaire thinking and stark partisanship that have turned Americans off of politics. But for those of us who believe that government has a role to play in promoting opportunity and prosperity for all Americans, a polarized electorate isn’t good enough. What’s needed is a broad majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill – who are reengaged in the project of national renewal, and who see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interests of others.”
Obama believes that the electorate is waiting for politicians to rise above dogma and the polarity that has been the norm in Washington for the past thirty years or more. He believes that Americans “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 sometimes have a point.”
This chapter discusses some of the core values that most Americans believe in: family, community, patriotism, obligations of a citizenship, a belief in something bigger than ourselves, an individual’s value as a person. And the ensuing tensions that those often contrasting values create in a society.
“In a country as diverse as ours, there will always be passionate arguments about how we draw the line when it comes to government action. That is how our democracy works. But our democracy might work a bit better if we recognized that all of us possess values that are worthy of respect.”
Of all the values Obama mentions, there is a recurring theme of empathy throughout the whole book. “I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are struggling in this society. After all, if they are like us, then their struggles are our own. If we fail to help, we diminish ourselves.”
Before Obama became a U.S. Senator from Illinois, he taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law School. His admiration and respect for the Constitution comes through loud and clear. It is obvious, too, that he is not a strict constructionist, stating “… it is not a static but rather a living document, and must be reading the context of an ever-changing world.” Later in the chapter he writes, “In sum, the Constitution envisions a road map by which we marry passion to reason, the ideal of individual freedom to the demands of community. And the amazing thing is that it’s worked.”
Coming soon: Part Two, covering the next three chapters of The Audacity of Hope.