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MAY 24, 2009   

A darn good read

Cover of The Audacity of Hope by Barack ObamaI took out my usual mix of books from the Lakewood Library: newer fiction, a thriller that I expected to be entertaining, and mostly out of guilt that I hadn't read it sooner, Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.

The first two novels didn't really grab my attention, so I turned to the "thriller". It wasn't thrilling, but moved along in a moderately entertaining way. The fact that each chapter was no more than five pages long helped.

But even that was sufficiently dull that almost out of desperation I started Obama's book, published in 2006 when he still was a U.S. Senator. I sat on the back deck after breakfast with a cup of coffee, and before I'd finished the Prologue I realized that this was more interesting and better written than any of the others.

There's something very satisfying about reading an author who is intelligent, witty, and graceful. For a book that all about politics it doesn't seem like a political book. For one, Obama admits to his own doubts and shortcomings rather than pretending that he has all the answers. For another, he frequently gives credit to his opponents, both for their personal beliefs and for the strength of their arguments. Not something that's been a part of American politics for at least eight years.

Mr. Obama's view of politics as it could and should be makes a whole lot of sense to me. It's based on the idea that most people are neither right-wing fanatics or left wing-nuts. They are good people like you and me:

They are out there...those ordinary citizens who have grown up in the midst of all the political and cultural battles, but who have found a way—in their own lives, at least—to make peace with their neighbors, and themselves...

I imagine that they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot e compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point. They don't always understand the arguments between right and left, conservative and liberal, but they recognize the difference between dogma and common sense, responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that lasts and those that are fleeting.
(Pp. 41-42)

Maybe with this election we've found that politics. Maybe not. I'm very happy, though, that we have a chance to find out whether the politics of hope can indeed reclaim the American Dream. If this interests you too, I highly recommend The Audacity of Hope.

Related articles

Only in America? "Truth Truck" - May 23, 2009
Door to door for Obama - November 5, 2008
Why I'm voting for Barack Obama - October 27, 2008
Obama for President - February 20, 2008

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