The Audacity of Hope

It wasn’t just the struggles of these men and women that had moved me. Rather, it was their determination, their self-reliance, a relentless optimism in the face of hardship. It brought to mind a phrase that my pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., had once used in a sermon.

The audacity of hope.

That was the best of the American spirit, I thought—having the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary that we could restore a sense of community to a nation torn by conflict; the gall to believe that despite personal setbacks, the loss of a job or an illness in the family or a childhood mired in poverty, we had some control—and therefore responsibility—over our own fate.

It was that audacity, I thought, that joined us as one people.

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope (p. 356)

-Reading these words two nights before the 46th Presidential Inauguration was a profound experience. Although Barack Obama’s words above are aged fifteen years, they could be said anew in light of the past four years—perhaps especially 2020—as Americans.

Listening to President Biden’s many speeches yesterday, Barack Obama’s words resounded constantly in my mind. The joyful tears—the tears of relief—and the celebrations that rang in President Biden yesterday are the audacity of hope in action.

My friends and I have spent many hours discussing what we hoped a Biden presidency would mean for our country, and one day in, so many of our hopes are coming to fruition. A responsible reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. A commander-in-chief who understands the value of foreign relationships and allies. A man of science who strives to combat climate change. A man of humanity who will protect immigrants.

A leader who realizes that his number-one duty is to put people first, not just Americans or misguided, self-absorbed interests with short-term benefits and long-term consequences.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama is an inspiring book. I’ve sent many passages to loved ones, sharing how what Obama describes is poignant or reminds me of their spirit…which, in turn, reminds me of what there is within Obama that makes him an incredible leader. As a writer (like his speeches), Obama could be a tad long-winded at times, although enjoyably so. The Audacity of Hope is not a quick read, but it is a necessary read. Throughout the entire book, Obama referenced experiences at home (both literally and nationally) and abroad, and I think that makes the world feel a little bit smaller—like we all really are in this together.

And in that spirit of togetherness, even though our nation feels more fractured than ever (at least, in our lifetimes) the words of Barack Obama ring especially true. Normally, I’d write several more paragraphs explaining why others should read this book, but today, I think the words above are case enough. Americans definitely do have a spirit of perseverance in their dreams, both citizens and citizens-to-be alike. We are not all be as liberated as we deserve to be in the so-called Land of the Free, yet we are certainly brave enough in our hope to make it happen…we have the audacity of hope.

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