This is the book I was looking for when I ended up listening to Dreams From My Father, which is also by Barack Obama. But at the time, this one had a list of people waiting for it and Dreams From My Father was readily available, so I listened to it while waiting for this one. I’m glad I did. Not that it’s necessary to have read it in order to understand The Audacity of Hope, but I do think it helps because Obama’s first book gives more of a sense of where he’s coming from, especially since the title of his second book comes from a painting that got mentioned in his first book.
This one gets more political. Obama does talk some about meeting Michelle and the struggles they encountered in starting a family together, but most of the focus of this book is on politics. It was fascinating for a lot of reasons, not least of which was the fact that he was writing while Bush Jr. was president and SO MUCH has happened between then and now.
Obama doesn’t talk about wanting to run for president in this book, although he must have at least been thinking about it. He does talk about how running for any kind of office requires a certain amount of megalomania (you have to believe you are more qualified than anyone else to represent the inhabitants of that area) and an unhealthy obsession in order to actually see a campaign through.
He also talks about the struggles of maintaining your integrity while trying to run for office. Ideally, politicians should represent all Americans, including/especially the poorest of the poor. At the same time, running a successful campaign requires money. No one will vote for you if they don’t know who you are, so you need a logo, signs with your name and logo, and advertising (which is never cheap).
As a direct result, Obama found himself spending more time with wealthy donors. They had liberal, progressive ideals (like Obama), but they still weren’t the people Obama really wanted to represent. He didn’t present a solution to this problem, but he did acknowledge that it is a problem. His struggles to get union endorsements and get the support he needed to win the election without becoming a two-faced politician once he was in office were also interesting to hear about.
Hearing Obama’s dreams for the future of America was kind of inspiring and depressing at the same time. He focused on the need for universal healthcare as well as the need for an overhaul of our educational system. Reading this at a time when the current administration is busy trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act gives me mixed feelings, but it was his theories on education that really intrigued me. It makes me wonder why he didn’t spend more time and energy on that when he was president. I understand he only had eight years and there’s only so much one can be expected to do in such a limited time frame, but personally, I would love to see a totally new education system that actually teaches kids the way they learn and pays teachers a living wage. I can’t knock the Affordable Care Act (I am directly benefiting from it, at least for now), but if Obama had chosen to focus on education instead, would the Republicans now be trying to undo all his hard work?
Obama has an interesting view on politics. He talks about meeting President Bush when he (Obama) was a new Senator and the fact that people are often surprised to find he likes Bush personally, even if they rarely agree on policy. That observation, coupled with the fact that, despite people grumbling about Congress and its ineptitudes and the need to throw out the lot of them, people across the country continue to vote their Congressmen back into office term after term. However much we hate Congress, we tend to like our Congressmen, which is certainly true in my case.
I thought Obama dealt with the Republicans pretty gently in this book, especially considering he was writing at a time when Republicans were losing all sense of reason. It may have merely been his desire to maintain diplomacy in a published book his opponents might read, but Obama seems to have thought Republicans to be generally well-meaning people who sometimes take their ideals to extremes. It’s a far cry from the perception I have of Republicans as evil, greedy, power-hungry old white dudes intent on keeping their rich friends rich at the expense of the rest of us, but I’m trying to change that. People keep saying we need to open the lines of communication now more than ever and dehumanizing the opposition won’t help anything. We need to find common ground and reading this book reminded me of the importance of that and made me think it might actually be possible.
What did you guys read/listen to this week? Anything else that took on a totally different meaning after a few years?