Friday, June 13, 2008

the Audacity of Hope.

the other night, i finally finished reading Barack Obama's 2nd [more popular] book, the Audacity of Hope.

in summary: wow. if you are on the fence (maybe you think Obama is all hype or too inexperienced), and/or are seriously interested in making a decision between candidates this election (and not just voting down the line) READ THIS BOOK.

originally bought 18 months ago (dec 2006) for my sister, with the understanding that she would quickly finish + let me borrow.

time passes.

flash forward to December 2007, where Barry (what my friend fake Steve calls him) is all of a sudden no longer only the interesting + inspirational candidate, but a SERIOUS contender. back in the US for Christmas, i asked my sister again, so i could read on the 18 hour journey back to Singapore. she still had not finished it.

February 2008. still not finished.
April 2008. still not finished

June 2008. she was STILL not finished. so i simply grabbed it last week. a few [delayed] plane rides, some late nights, and early bus rides later (in total 5 days), and i was done

again, wow.

to be clear, most of what i choose to read for leisure is fiction (whether it be comics, well-written comedic insight, or too-close to home dramatic stories), and of what limited non-fiction i DO read is either historical (as a teen i was obsessed with the Cold War), business observation/innovation, random, and very rarely, political. most of my news comes from the interweb, the Economist, and week in review.

but as seen above, i'd wanted to read this book for a very long time. what was most interesting to me was how frank it was. throughout, Obama cites many things from his past experiences, as a youth, a community organizer, a budding politician, a state politician, and finally, a junior senator in th e US Congress. he constantly refers to the people he met and worked with, Republican and Democrat, and what he's learned + admired from many other domestic leaders that have come before him (including John McCain, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, JFK, Abraham Lincoln, and even the founding fathers like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton). more often than not, he brings his family into the fray, and how many of the issues discussed impact him as a citizen, and a father.

bookended by a prologue and epilogue, the book and divided into chapters covering several broad topics, each delving into the specific issues that every voter should be considering in November. specific chapters/topics discussed:
  • Republicans & Democrats (what has happened to [partisan] politics in America)
  • Values (media and how a politician should carry themselves)
  • Our Constitution (what has happened to the practice of our democracy)
  • Politics (special interests)
  • Opportunity (the economy, education + serving his constituencies)
  • Faith (the role of religion in America)
  • Race (why we cannot assume it is a non-issue)
  • The World Beyond our Borders (his experiences abroad, international policy, past, present and future)
  • Family (his, and others, and the effect the evolution of the family unit has on society)
for every issue discussed, Obama obviously gives his stance, but more importantly the principles that lead him there, as well as what works and does not work about the opposing point of view. and yes, he even goes as far as to state what he would - in a principle-based manner - actually DO to address some of these issues, when broken down into their core components. the underlying theme is that for every hurdle we face, there is a rational solution that can be found from informed discussion, guided by the commonalities that bind us together as America.

what i found interesting was how the LAST political book i read (Al Gore's the Assault on Reason), i was left feeling as if the many problems in our union were left exposed. whether it be the abuses of executive power, the pandering of the media, and the sheer apathy/disinterest of the public that ultimately got us to where we are today, Gore left me on a downer, with a trace hint of optimism. Obama's book started on a similar premise of the many critical issues we face, but then brought the tone back up by solidly addressing how he wants to get to the solutions (and not just rhetorically, practically).

even more interesting thing i found was that Obama's book was published in 2006, which likely means it was written in 2004/2005, just as he had become sworn in as the junior Senator from Illinois. and while he might have always had presidential aspirations, he only reluctantly entered the fray in 2007, with only a slim chance of making it as far as he had. the point is, this book was written not by a man wanting to be president, but as a man who believed that simply wanted his rational thought and experiences guide his principles and approach to politics.

in all honesty, even though my vote has already long since been secured for Obama (something that this blog and any conversations we have should already have well established), i was still curious if John McCain had published ANYTHING before his 2000 run for president. and my friend Derrick recently told me he had, and he owned the book (Faith of my Fathers, bought for $1 at a book sale recently). so i plan to read it. because i'd like to better know the other candidate as well, and not necessarily his politics (which are already well known, but i plan to do my research), but his principles. and nothing beats reading what someone has written to get inside their head.

if you're not sure where you're going to vote this year, or are planning to vote for McCain OR Obama - go read the Audacity of Hope (...and if you're too lazy/time-strapped, simply get the audiobook)

especially you guys - Dad, Mandi, Hamid, John, and Jason :)

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