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The Audacity of Hope

The Audacity of Hope

奥巴马自传 无畏的希望

Obama, Barack;  
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Political Science
Biography & Autobiography > Presidents & Heads of State
Political Science > General
Random House
17.78 * 3.17 * 10.16

Product Description

The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama's call for a new kind of politics—a politics that builds upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. Lucid in his vision of America's place in the world, refreshingly candid about his family life and his time in the Senate, Obama here sets out his political convictions and inspires us to trust in the dogged optimism that has long defined us and that is our best hope going forward.

About the Author

BARACK OBAMA was elected President of the United States on November 4, 2008. He is the author of one previous book, the New York Times bestseller Dreams from My Father. Review

Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father, was a compelling and moving memoir focusing on personal issues of race, identity, and community. With his second book The Audacity of Hope, Obama engages themes raised in his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, shares personal views on faith and values and offers a vision of the future that involves repairing a "political process that is broken" and restoring a government that has fallen out of touch with the people. We had the opportunity to ask Senator Obama a few questions about writing, reading, and politics--see his responses below. --Daphne Durham
20 Second Interview: A Few Words with Barack Obama

Q: How did writing a book that you knew would be read so closely by so many compare to writing your first book, when few people knew who you were?
A: In many ways, Dreams from My Father was harder to write. At that point, I wasn't even sure that I could write a book. And writing the first book really was a process of self-discovery, since it touched on my family and my childhood in a much more intimate way. On the other hand, writing The Audacity of Hope paralleled the work that I do every day--trying to give shape to all the issues that we face as a country, and providing my own personal stamp on them.

Q: What is your writing process like? You have such a busy schedule, how did you find time to write?
A: I'm a night owl, so I usually wrote at night after my Senate day was over, and after my family was asleep--from 9:30 p.m. or so until 1 a.m. I would work off an outline--certain themes or stories that I wanted to tell--and get them down in longhand on a yellow pad. Then I'd edit while typing in what I'd written.

Q: If readers are to come away from The Audacity of Hope with one action item (a New Year's Resolution for 2007, perhaps?), what should it be?
A: Get involved in an issue that you're passionate about. It almost doesn’t matter what it is--improving the school system, developing strategies to wean ourselves off foreign oil, expanding health care for kids. We give too much of our power away, to the professional politicians, to the lobbyists, to cynicism. And our democracy suffers as a result.

Q: You're known for being able to work with people across ideological lines. Is that possible in today's polarized Washington?
A: It is possible. There are a lot of well-meaning people in both political parties. Unfortunately, the political culture tends to emphasize conflict, the media emphasizes conflict, and the structure of our campaigns rewards the negative. I write about these obstacles in chapter 4 of my book, "Politics." When you focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points, and emphasize common sense over ideology, you'd be surprised what can be accomplished. It also helps if you're willing to give other people credit--something politicians have a hard time doing sometimes.


“Barack Obama is that rare politician who can actually write—and write movingly and genuinely about himself.”
The New York Times

“Obama writes convincingly about race as well as the lofty place the Constitution holds in American life.... He writes tenderly about family and knowingly about faith.”
Los Angeles Times

“An upbeat view of the country's potential and a political biography that concentrates on the senator's core values.”
Chicago Tribune

"He is one of the best writers to enter modern politics."
—Jonathan Alter,

"What's impressive about Obama is an intelligence that his new books diplays in aubundance."
Washington Post Book World

“The self-portrait is appealing. It presents a man of relative youth yet maturity, a wise observer of the human condition, a figure who possesses perseverance and writing skills that have flashes of grandeur. Obama also demonstrates a wry sense of humor…His particular upbringing gives him special insights into the transition of American politics in the 1960s and ’70s from debates over economic principles to a focus on culture and morality, and into the divisiveness, polarization and incivility that accompanied this transition.”
—Gary Hart, The New York Times Book Review

“America’s founders set a high standard for political writing, and most contemporary efforts fall woefully short. How nice, then, to have a politician who can write as well as U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. … The Audacity of Hope … is fascinating in its revelation of Obama as someone who considers and questions, rather than asserts and declares. In nine focused chapters, Obama shows himself an agile thinker. This is an idea book, not a public-policy primer.”
—Elizabeth Taylor, Philadelphia Daily News

“Not only is Obama a good writer, his mind is top-shelf, his heart tender.”
—Les Payne, Newsday

“A thoughtful, careful analysis of what needs to be done to preserve our freedoms in a time of terror.”
—Newton N. Minow, Chicago Tribune

From AudioFile

Barack Obama smoothly blends personal memoir with clear, bold statements on his political views. His delivery is exceptionally polished, and a strong sense of his character comes through. Due to both his stories and his earnest tone, he seems likable, reasonable, and trustworthy. He also shows a fine sense of humor (and does a surprisingly good George W. Bush imitation). However, except when he speaks about his family, Obama's voice is almost free of passion, making one wonder if he has the fire to fuel his ambitions. As for his political reasoning, he strongly stakes out a pragmatic middle-liberal position. His concern for people seems genuine, but his policy proposals offer little that is new. G.T.B. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Ilinois's Democratic senator illuminates the constraints of mainstream politics all too well in this sonorous manifesto. Obama (Dreams from My Father) castigates divisive partisanship (especially the Republican brand) and calls for a centrist politics based on broad American values. His own cautious liberalism is a model: he's skeptical of big government and of Republican tax cuts for the rich and Social Security privatization; he's prochoice, but respectful of prolifers; supportive of religion, but not of imposing it. The policy result is a tepid Clintonism, featuring tax credits for the poor, a host of small-bore programs to address everything from worker retraining to teen pregnancy, and a health-care program that resembles Clinton's Hillary-care proposals. On Iraq, he floats a phased but open-ended troop withdrawal. His triangulated positions can seem conflicted: he supports free trade, while deploring its effects on American workers (he opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement), in the end hoping halfheartedly that more support for education, science and renewable energy will see the economy through the dilemmas of globalization. Obama writes insightfully, with vivid firsthand observations, about politics and the compromises forced on politicians by fund-raising, interest groups, the media and legislative horse-trading. Alas, his muddled, uninspiring proposals bear the stamp of those compromises. (Oct. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


It’s been almost ten years since I first ran for political office. I was thirty-five at the time, four years out of law school, recently married, and generally impatient with life. A seat in the Illinois legislature had opened up, and several friends suggested that I run, thinking that my work as a civil rights lawyer, and contacts from my days as a community organizer, would make me a viable candidate. After discussing it with my wife, I entered the race and proceeded to do what every first-time candidate does: I talked to anyone who would listen. I went to block club meetings and church socials, beauty shops and barbershops. If two guys were standing on a corner, I would cross the street to hand them campaign literature. And everywhere I went, I’d get some version of the same two questions.

“Where’d you get that funny name?”

And then: “You seem like a nice enough guy. Why do you want to go into something dirty and nasty like politics?”

I was familiar with the question, a variant on the questions asked of me years earlier, when I’d first arrived in Chicago to work in low-income neighborhoods. It signaled a cynicism not simply with politics but with the very notion of a public life, a cynicism that–at least in the South Side neighborhoods I sought to represent–had been nourished by a generation of broken promises. In response, I would usually smile and nod and say that I understood the skepticism, but that there was–and always had been–another tradition to politics, a tradition that stretched from the days of the country’s founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done. It was a pretty convincing speech, I thought. And although I’m not sure that the people who heard me deliver it were similarly impressed, enough of them appreciated my earnestness and youthful swagger that I made it to the Illinois legislature.

Six years later, when I decided to run for the United States Senate, I wasn’t so sure of myself.

By all appearances, my choice of careers seemed to have worked out. After spending my two terms during which I labored in the minority, Democrats had gained control of the state senate, and I had subsequently passed a slew of bills, from reforms of the Illinois death penalty system to an expansion of the state’s health program for kids. I had continued to teach at the University of Chicago Law School, a job I enjoyed, and was frequently invited to speak around town. I had preserved my independence, my good name, and my marriage, all of which, statistically speaking, had been placed at risk the moment I set foot in the state capital.

But the years had also taken their toll. Some of it was just a function of my getting older, I suppose, for if you are paying attention, each successive year will make you more intimately acquainted with all of your flaws–the blind spots, the recurring habits of thought that may be genetic or may be environmental, but that will almost certainly worsen with time, as surely as the hitch in your walk turns to pain in your hip. In me, one of those flaws had proven to be a chronic restlessness; an inability to appreciate, no matter how well things were going, those blessings that were right there in front of me. It’s a flaw that is endemic to modern life, I think–endemic, too, in the American character–and one that is nowhere more evident than in the field of politics. Whether politics actually encourages the trait or simply attracts those who possess it is unclear. Lyndon Johnson, who knew much about both politics and restlessness, once said that every man is trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes, and I suppose that may explain my particular malady as well as anything else.

In any event, it was as a consequence of that restlessness that I decided to challenge a sitting Democratic incumbent for his congressional seat in the 2000 election cycle. It was an ill-considered race, and I lost badly–the sort of drubbing that awakens you to the fact that life is not obliged to work out as you’d planned. A year and a half later, the scars of that loss sufficiently healed, I had lunch with a media consultant who had been encouraging me for some time to run for statewide office. As it happened, the lunch was scheduled for late September 2001.

“You realize, don’t you, that the political dynamics have changed,” he said as he picked at his salad.

“What do you mean?” I asked, knowing full well what he meant. We both looked down at the newspaper beside him. There, on the front page, was Osama bin Laden.

“Hell of a thing, isn’t it?” he said, shaking his head. “Really bad luck. You can’t change your name, of course. Voters are suspicious of that kind of thing. Maybe if you were at the start of your career, you know, you could use a nickname or something. But now... "His voice trailed off and he shrugged apologetically before signaling the waiter to bring us the check.

I suspected he was right, and that realization ate away at me. For the first time in my career, I began to experience the envy of seeing younger politicians succeed where I had failed, moving into higher offices, getting more things done. The pleasures of politics–the adrenaline of debate, the animal warmth of shaking hands and plunging into a crowd–began to pale against the meaner tasks of the job: the begging for money, the long drives home after the banquet had run two hours longer than scheduled, the bad food and stale air and clipped phone conversations with a wife who had stuck by me so far but was pretty fed up with raising our children alone and was beginning to question my priorities. Even the legislative work, the policy-making that had gotten me to run in the first place, began to feel too incremental, too removed from the larger battles–over taxes, security, health care, and jobs–that were being waged on a national stage. I began to harbor doubts about the path I had chosen; I began feeling the way I imagine an actor or athlete must feel when, after years of commitment to a particular dream, after years of waiting tables between auditions or scratching out hits in the minor leagues, he realizes that he’s gone just about as far as talent or fortune will take him. The dream will not happen, and he now faces the choice of accepting this fact like a grown-up and moving on to more sensible pursuits, or refusing the truth and ending up bitter, quarrelsome, and slightly pathetic.

Denial, anger, bargaining, despair–I’m not sure I went through all the stages prescribed by the experts. At some point, though, I arrived at acceptance–of my limits, and, in a way, my mortality. I refocused on my work in the state senate and took satisfaction from the reforms and initiatives that my position afforded. I spent more time at home, and watched my daughters grow, and properly cherished my wife, and thought about my long-term financial obligations. I exercised, and read novels, and came to appreciate how the earth rotated around the sun and the seasons came and went without any particular exertions on my part.

And it was this acceptance, I think, that allowed me to come up with the thoroughly cockeyed idea of running for the United States Senate. An up-or-out strategy was how I described it to my wife, one last shot to test out my ideas before I settled into a calmer, more stable, and better-paying existence. And she–perhaps more out of pity than conviction–agreed to this one last race, though she also suggested that given the orderly life she preferred for our family, I shouldn’t necessarily count on her vote.

I let her take comfort in the long odds against me. The Republican incumbent, Peter Fitzgerald, had spent $19 million of his personal wealth to unseat the previous senator, Carol Moseley Braun. He wasn’t widely popular; in fact he didn’t really seem to enjoy politics all that much. But he still had unlimited money in his family, as well as a genuine integrity that had earned him grudging respect from the voters.

For a time Carol Moseley Braun reappeared, back from an ambassadorship in New Zealand and with thoughts of trying to reclaim her old seat; her possible candidacy put my own plans on hold. When she decided to run for the presidency instead, everyone else started looking at the Senate race. By the time Fitzgerald announced he would not seek reelection, I was staring at six primary opponents, including the sitting state comptroller; a businessman worth hundreds of millions of dollars; Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s former chief of staff; and a black, female health-care professional who the smart money assumed would split the black vote and doom whatever slim chances I’d had in the first place.

I didn’t care. Freed from worry by low expectations, my credibility bolstered by several helpful endorsements, I threw myself into the race with an energy and joy that I thought I had lost. I hired four staffers, all of them smart, in their twenties or early thirties, and suitably cheap. We found a small office, printed letterhead, installed phone lines and several computers. Four or five hours a day, I called major Democratic donors and tried to get my calls returned. I held press conferences to which nobody came. We signed up for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and were assigned the parade’s very last slot, so that my ten volunteers and I found ourselves marching just a few paces ahead of the city’s sanitation trucks, waving to the few stragglers who remained on the route whil...

From The Washington Post

Why, just two years after being elected to the Senate, has Barack Obama set so many Democratic -- and some Republican -- imaginations on fire? The Illinois Democrat is certainly a magnetic speaker who delivers original phrases in composed yet passionate tones. His life, as told in the powerful memoir Dreams From My Father, seems a model for the globalized future: The only child of a biracial, bicontinental union, he grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, then went on to become a community organizer in Chicago and the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. And his athletic good looks have landed him on the cover of a major fashion magazine, with a spread by Annie Leibovitz. Not since John F. Kennedy has a junior senator so quickly become a national celebrity and a possible candidate for the White House.

But what's most impressive about Obama, 45, is an intelligence that his new book displays in abundance. He articulates a mode of liberalism that sounds both highly pragmatic and deeply moral. The Audacity of Hope -- the title comes from a sermon by his Chicago pastor -- trumpets no unifying theme or grand theory about how the American dream will be reclaimed and by whom. Chapters bear such prosaic titles as "Values," "Opportunity" and "Faith." But in a disarmingly modest way, Obama offers a more sensible perspective on "how we might begin the process of changing our politics and our civic life" than his more seasoned Capitol Hill colleagues have provided.

Take the problem of the big money that is indispensable to winning a statewide or national campaign. Unlike most Democrats, Obama does not dwell on the corrupt antics of the convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his friends. His concern is about a more serious and enduring threat to democracy: class inequality. During his own Senate race in 2004, Obama had to spend a good deal of time with "law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists." Most of these donors, he acknowledges, were "smart, interesting people" who asked for no specific favors. Still, they couldn't help but express "the perspectives of their class." Their wealth prevented them from understanding loyal members of labor unions, evangelical churches or the NRA. As firm believers in a meritocracy, the donors implicitly denied that "there might be any social ill that could not be cured by a high SAT score." Lawmakers who routinely move in such circles, Obama adds, tend to neglect "the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population -- that is, the people that I'd entered public life to serve."

That willingness to criticize his own well-heeled supporters stems partly from Obama's years of work with the working poor. It reflects a desire to transcend accusations and talking points and to offer a fresh look at undeniable but seemingly insoluble problems. Thus Obama agrees with conservatives who argue that teen motherhood and the glorification of "gangsta life" help keep young blacks from escaping the ghetto. But as an African American, he also recognizes each violent criminal as a cousin or brother who was not preordained to go wrong. "African Americans understand that culture matters but that culture is shaped by circumstance," he observes, and the longer policymakers and the middle-class public ignore inner-city poverty or try to explain it away, the more endemic it becomes. To address the problem, Obama recommends a bundle of pragmatic policies that would draw both on public funds and the initiative of local businesses: low-cost child-care centers, neighborhood health clinics, job programs for ex-felons.

Obama's own experiences also help him illuminate the root causes of anti-Americanism abroad. During his time in Indonesia, the archipelago was at the beginning of an oil-generated boom that spread prosperity, unevenly, throughout the islands. The United States had helped install Sukarno, a military dictator, after a bloodbath that claimed at least an estimated 500,000 lives. But once the Indonesian economy collapsed in the 1990s, militant Islamists were able to gain a hearing for their diatribes against modernist culture and American power. For Obama, this new "land of strangers" serves as a lesson about the way that U.S. influence -- cultural, economic and military -- has both uplifted and angered the world, in roughly equal measure. He also points out that most Americans can't find Indonesia on a map.

Throughout the book, Obama strikes similar ethical chords. He credits President Reagan's "clarity about communism" but regrets that it "seemed matched by his blindness regarding other sources of misery in the world." He endorses marriage workshops and shudders at the explicit lyrics of some rap songs, but he opposes legal restrictions on intimate behavior. "Perhaps I just find the ways of the human heart too various, and my own life too imperfect, to believe myself qualified to serve as anyone's moral arbiter," he writes, echoing Jesus's judgment that only those without sin should cast the first stone.

Obama's knack for mixing stirring rhetoric about good and evil with practical policy ideas is rare in the modern history of U.S. politics. At times, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan managed the feat. But none of these men wrote his own presidential speeches. Nor did Kennedy or Reagan really write the books that carry their names. In contrast, The Audacity of Hope is clearly Obama's own creation; the rhythms, the self-deprecating humor and the graceful transitions all resemble those in his memoir.

The sentimentality does, too. His book concludes with a vignette that could be entitled "Mr. Obama Goes to Washington." On fine evenings, the senator likes to take a run down the Mall and end up inside the Lincoln Memorial. He reads the two greatest, and perhaps shortest, speeches ever written and delivered by an American president and reflects on Martin Luther King Jr.'s "mighty cadence" that thrilled a massive crowd a century later. "My heart is filled," Obama writes, "with love for this country." The story, like the original by Frank Capra, is a bit hard to believe. (Does the senator really pore over the words of the Second Inaugural and the Gettsyburg Address on every visit?) Of course, the policies Obama favors are far less audacious than Lincoln's destruction of the slave system or King's crusade to abolish the Jim Crow order that replaced it. Still, in our lowdown, dispiriting era, Obama's talent for proposing humane, sensible solutions with uplifting, elegant prose does fill one with hope. Someday, it may even help him get elected president.

Reviewed by Michael Kazin
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.