I recently finished reading Barack Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope. As I reflect on the book a few parts stick out to me.
In the chapter that discusses values, Obama urges his readers to act on their values. He says: “If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.” He accuses Americans of talking about noble values (equality, family) while tearing those very values down in the pursuit of less noble values (wealth, comfort, self gratification). I think this charge is well founded and accurate.
Obama’s thoughts on the Constitution are very interesting. I’ve heard conservatives express considerable alarm about them. I find it refreshing to hear someone acknowledge that the Constitution is not divinely inspired and it was written in conflict. I’m not saying I favor abolishing the Constitution or straying far from it. The concept of the document being a framework for conversation as opposed to a blueprint for construction is interesting. (Obama does not claim to be the first to use the building/conversation metaphor in relation to the American democracy.)
In his chapter on opportunity Obama relates a conversation he had with billionaire Warren Buffet. Buffett readily acknowledges the role society played in his climb to the top. Without an environment receptive to his talents (an environment with laws, an education system, and a financial system) like the United States, Buffett admits he would be in trouble: “If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner.” Because of this Buffett feels responsibility to support the society that supported him. I had never heard a wealthy person speak of obligation to society in these terms before. It is an interesting thought; I need to ponder it a bit more.
I found the book to be beneficial. It helped me appreciate the man who is the President more. I respect his integrity, thoughtfulness, and quickness to admit he has much to learn. I respect his desire to be a good husband and father. Obama may not have gotten my vote in the election, but as the elected leader of the US he has my support and prayers. And any man that uses the word audacity in book title has to be pretty cool.