The Audacity of Hope

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The Audacity of Hope is a 2006 autobiographical work by Barack Obama.

Quotes[edit]

The audacity of hope : thoughts on reclaiming the American dream. New York: Crown Publishers. 2006. LCC E901.1.O23 A3 2006. ISBN 9780307237699. 
War might be hell and still the right thing to do. Economies could collapse despite the best-laid plans. People could work hard all their lives and still lose everything.
Values are faithfully applied to the facts before us, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question.
We will need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how much we share: common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break.
  • Someone 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.
    • p. 3.
  • 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.
    • p. 4.
  • Furthermore, I am a prisoner of my own biography: I can't help but view the American experience through the lens of a black man of mixed heritage, forever mindful of how generations of people who looked like me were subjugated and stigmatized, and the subtle and not so subtle ways that race and class continue to shape our lives.
    • p. 10.
  • When Democrats rush up to me at events and insist that we live in the worst of political times, that a creeping fascism is closing its grip around our throats, I may mention the internment of Japanese Americans under FDR, the Alien and Sedition Acts under John Adams, or a hundred years of lynching under several dozen administrations as having been possibly worse, and suggest we all take a deep breath. When people at dinner parties ask me how I can possibly operate in the current political environment, with all the negative campaigning and personal attacks, I may mention Nelson Mandela, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, or some guy in a Chinese or Egyptian prison somewhere. In truth, being called names is not such a bad deal.
    • p. 21-22.
  • We will need to understand just how we got to this place, this land of warring factions and tribal hatreds. And we will need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how much we share: common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break.
    • p. 25.
  • War might be hell and still the right thing to do. Economies could collapse despite the best-laid plans. People could work hard all their lives and still lose everything.
    • p. 36.
  • By the end of the week, I was sorry to leave. Not simply because I had made so many new friends, but because in the faces of all the men and women I'd met I had recognized pieces of myself.
    • p. 50-51.
  • Identities are scrambling, and then cohering in new ways. Beliefs keep slipping through the noose of predictability. Facile expectations and simple explanations are being constantly upended.
    • p. 51.
  • In a country as diverse as ours, there will always be passionate arguments about how we draw the line when it comes to government action. That is how our democracy works. But our democracy might work a bit better if we recognized that all of us possess values that are worthy of respect: if liberals at least acknowledged that the recreational hunter feels the same way about his gun as they feel about their library books, and if conservatives recognized that most women feel as protective of their right to reproductive freedom as evangelicals do of their right to worship.
    • p. 57.
  • While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes- mass murder, the rape and murder of a child- so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment.
    • p. 57-58.
  • Values are faithfully applied to the facts before us, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question.
    • p. 59.
  • All the money in the world won't boost student achievement if parents make no effort to instill in their children the values of hard work and delayed gratification.
    • p. 63.
  • We say we value the legacy we leave the next generation and then saddle that generation with mountains of debt. We say we believe in equal opportunity but then stand idle while millions of American children languish in poverty. We insist that we value family, but then structure our economy and organize our lives so as to ensure that our families get less and less of our time.
    • p. 68-69.
  • For in the end laws are just words on a page- words that are sometimes malleable, opaque, as dependent on context and trust as they are in a story or poem or promise to someone, words whose meanings are subject to erosion, sometimes collapsing in the blink of an eye.
    • p. 77.
  • We also understand that a declaration is not a government; a creed is not enough. The Founders recognized that there were seeds of anarchy in the idea of individual freedom, an intoxicating danger in the idea of equality, for if everybody is truly free, without the constraints of birth or rank or an inherited social order- if my notion of faith is no better or worse than yours, and my notions of truth and goodness and beauty are as true and good and beautiful as yours- then how can we ever hope to form a society that coheres? Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes and Locke suggested that free men would form governments as a bargain to ensure that one man's freedom did not become another man's tyranny; that they would sacrifice individual license to better preserve their liberty.
    • p. 86-87.
  • We are on our own, and have only our own reason and our judgment to rely on.
    • p. 89.
But deliberation alone could not provide the slave his freedom or cleanse America of its original sin. In the end, it was the sword that would sever his chains.
  • But deliberation alone could not provide the slave his freedom or cleanse America of its original sin. In the end, it was the sword that would sever his chains.
    • p. 96.
  • I love America too much, am too invested in what this country has become, too committed to its institutions, its beauty, and even its ugliness, to focus entirely on the circumstances of its birth. But neither can I brush aside the magnitude of the injustice done, or erase the ghosts of generations past, or ignore the open wound, the aching spirit, that ails this country still.
    • p. 96-97.
  • The blood of slaves reminds us that our pragmatism can sometimes be moral cowardice. Lincoln, and those buried at Gettysburg, remind us that we should pursue our own absolute truths only if we acknowledge that there may be a terrible price to pay.
    • p. 98.
  • I'm not suggesting that politicians are unique in suffering such disappointments. It's that unlike most people, who have the luxury of licking their wounds privately, the politician's loss is on public display.
    • p. 107.
  • As for most politicians, money isn't about getting rich. In the Senate, at least, most members are already rich. It's about maintaining status and power; it's about scaring off challengers and fighting off the fear. Money can't guarantee victory- it can't buy passion, charisma, or the ability to tell a story. But without money, and the television ads that consume all the money, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose.
    • p. 109.
  • In our standard economics textbooks and in our modern political debates, laissez-faire is the default rule; anyone who would challenge it swims against the prevailing tide.
    • p. 150.
  • Parents have the primary responsibility for instilling an ethic of hard work and educational achievement in their children.
    • p. 160.
  • If the prospect of melting ice caps, rising sea levels, changing weather patterns, more frequent hurricanes, more violent tornadoes, endless dust storms, decaying forests, dying coral reefs, and increases in respiratory illness and insect-borne diseases- if all that doesn't constitute a serious threat, I don't know what does.
    • p. 168.
  • More than anything, it is that sense- that despite great differences in wealth, we rise and fall together- that we can't afford to lose. As the pace of change accelerates, with some rising and many falling, that sense of common kinship becomes harder to maintain.
    • p. 193.
In our standard economics textbooks and in our modern political debates, laissez-faire is the default rule; anyone who would challenge it swims against the prevailing tide.
  • I came to realize that without a vessel for my beliefs, without an unequivocal commitment to a particular community of faith, I would be consigned at some level to always remain apart, free in the way that my mother was free, but also alone in the same ways she was ultimately alone.
    • p. 206.
  • I understand these fears- nowhere is it ordained that history moves in a straight line, and during difficult economic times it is possible that the imperatives of racial equality get shunted aside.
    • p. 248.
  • At times, American foreign policy has been farsighted, simultaneously serving our national interests, our ideals, and the interests of other nations. At other times American policies have been misguided, based on false assumptions that ignore the legitimate aspirations of other peoples, undermine our own credibility, and make for a more dangerous world.
    • p. 280.
  • Moreover, while America's revolutionary origins and republican form of government might make it sympathetic toward those seeking freedom elsewhere, America's early leaders cautioned against idealistic attempts to export our way of life; according to John Quincy Adams, America should not go "abroad in search of monsters to destroy" nor "become the dictatress of the world." Providence had changed America with the task of making a new world, not reforming the old; protected by an ocean and with the bounty of a continent, America could best serve the cause of freedom by concentrating on its own development, becoming a beacon of hope for other nations and people around the globe.
    • p. 280-281.
  • Of course, manifest destiny also meant bloody and violent conquest- of Native American tribes forcibly removed from their lands and of the Mexican army defending its territory. It was a conquest that, like slavery, contradicted America's founding principles and tended to be justified in explicitly racist terms, a conquest that American mythology has always had difficulty fully absorbing but that other countries recognized for what it was- an exercise in raw power.
    • p. 281.
  • For the next twenty years, America turned resolutely inward- reducing its army and navy, refusing to join the World Court, standing idly by as Italy, Japan, and Nazi Germany built up their military machines.
    • p. 283.
  • The very interconnectivity that increasingly binds the world together has empowered those who would tear that world down.
    • p. 305.
  • No person, in any culture, likes to be bullied. No person likes living in fear because his or her ideas are different. Nobody likes being poor or hungry, and nobody likes to live under an economic system in which the fruits of his or her labor go perpetually unrewarded.
    • p. 316.
  • In almost every successful social movement of the last century, from Gandhi's campaign against British rule to the Solidarity movement in Poland to the antiapartheid movement in South Africa, democracy was the result of a local awakening.
    • p. 316.
  • When we detain suspects indefinitely without trial or ship them off in the dead of night to countries where we know they'll be tortured, we weaken our ability to press for human rights and the rule of law in despotic regimes.
    • p. 321.
  • I reminded the men in the audience that being a father meant more than fathering a child; that even those of us who were physically present in the home are often emotionally absent; that precisely because many of us didn't have fathers in the house we have to redouble our efforts to break the cycle; and that if we want to pass on high expectations to our children, we have to have higher expectations for ourselves.
    • p. 347.

External links[edit]

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