In his first book, Dreams from My Father, published in 1995, Barack Obama described his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia and his early adult years serving the poor, mainly black, communities of Chicago. The book ended with a visit to his father’s homeland, Kenya. At this stage, Barack Obama was still resolving the issue of his black identity, the ‘enough of a cross to bear’ as he called it. In this second book, The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, the resurrected soul is free to explore the universal problems of poverty in whatever colour, race or community they appear. The masses have every reason to doubt the motives of those who bid for high political office but in Barack Obama they found a leader in whom they could place their trust.
Barack Obama explains the socioeconomic and political situation in the USA with great clarity and erudition. Based on wide reading, years of working with poor communities and wide-ranging discussions with politicians of all persuasions, he searches for solutions that both target his objectives and compromise with the realities of the often gridlocked political situation. As a US Senator during the Republican administration of George W Bush, he explains how he could not promote his own bills but was successful in advancing numerous amendments that ameliorated the impact on the weak and vulnerable.
The book ends with the words ‘My heart is filled with love for this country.’ Barack Obama venerates the US Constitution bequeathed by the founding fathers and adheres to most of its basic principles. However he also realises that times change and some revision is necessary, especially with the second amendment: the right to bear arms. Another of his aims is to establish universal health care, free at the point of delivery. He is aware that in gun control, health care provision and welfare benefits generally, most other advanced countries are now far ahead of the USA. He regrets that the world’s richest country neglects the welfare of so many of its citizens.
Barack Obama is a self-confessed man of faith but he believes in freedom of worship and the separation of church and state. He opposes fundamentalism in all its guises and believes that people of all faiths desire the same things: meaningful employment, social security and family life, and that they could achieve them by coming together in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect. He notes that some churches have amassed enormous wealth that could be better spent towards these ends.
This book is now read after the phenomenon of the Obama Presidency, during which he struggled to advance his policies against determined and powerful opposition. It is sad to observe that in a modern democracy people can still be persuaded to vote against their own best interests. In time, enough people may realise that this book both explains how the USA is, and shows how it should be.