August 2, 2009

10 quotes from Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope


When I first heard about Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Vintage), a few years ago, I had never heard of Obama and thought the book was a new self-help book and Obama was some new guru. Well, I don't have to explain that was not entirely right. Only now have I read the book and I like it. Let me not provide a conventional review the book here. I am not sure I can add much to the 743 reviews here. Instead, let me share with you 10 quotes from the book which I found appealing. So here we go.
  1. Life is not obliged to work out as you’d planned (page 3). 
  2. 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 talent or fortune will take him. (page 4), 
  3. Eventually, my rejection of authority spilled into self-indulgence and self-destructiveness (page 30), 
  4. Finding the right balance between our competing values is difficult. Tensions arise not because we have steered a wrong course, but simply because we live in a complex and contradictory world. (page 56). 
  5. The blood of slaves reminds us that our pragmatism can sometimes be moral cowardice. (page 98) 
  6. Our dominance isn’t inevitable. (page 142) 
  7. We should be guided by what works. (page 159) 
  8. Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its well-spring, just one of the many ways – and not necessarily the best way- that man attempted to control the unknowable and understand deeper truths about our lives. (page 204) 
  9. Of course organized religion doesn’t have a monopoly on virtue, and one need not be religious to make moral claims or appeal to a common good. (page 214) 
  10. Perhaps I just find the ways of the human heart to various and my own life too imperfect, to believe myself qualified to serve as anyone’s moral arbiter. (page 336) 
Do you like these quotes? Which do you like best and least?

14 comments:

  1. Hi Coert, welcome back!

    None of the quotes moved me.
    They do present a view and tell a story but they haven't made me see things differently. The haven't resonated.

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  2. Hi Peter, welcome back to you too! thanks for your reply to my question.

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  3. Hi Regina, thanks! Mine too, which may not be surprising: I wrote a book in Dutch titled Doen what werkt which means 'Doing what works' which is also the subtitle of this blog.

    Cheers,
    Coert

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  4. I wasn't all that moved by them either, but I'm a little reassured anytime a politician has the raw sense to voice something like (4).

    Perhaps not going so far as to recognize that wisdom is more than just "values," but at least it recognizes that important moral choices deserve reflection and prudence.

    That's a big change in mentality from the usual extremes of "just do the right thing," and even worse - "there is no right thing."

    Doing what works makes sense but it just seems so obvious to me, as opposed to the alternative.

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  5. Hi Todd,

    Very nice to see you here too (been following your amazon book reviews for a long time as you know).

    I like 4 too. It reminds me of something Obama said before that he wasn't planning on dumbing down issues just in order to please voters. This particular quote also reminds me of something William James once said (I wrote about that here: http://bit.ly/AiCLg).

    cheers, Coert

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  6. sorry, the william james quote was in this post: http://bit.ly/3uGVet, not in the one I mentioned in my previous comment

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  7. Hi Coert,

    I agree, James and the other "pragmatists" were painfully conscious of the conflicting sentiments behind moral choices, which is a neccessary awareness especially for someone in a position of power. The quote about pragmatism and moral cowardice is interesting in that regard (though I realize he didn't mean pragmatism in the technical philosophical sense). It does remind us that in spite of the "unstable equillibrium" of sentiments, there is still some sense of basic human flourishing and shared fate that aligns us, and it isn't always obvious or intutitive what that entails.

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  8. Hi Todd, I agree that although there will always be tension between competing goals and impulses and that there will always be problems thriving is possible. This of course is the main topic of positive psychology. I agree with you that it is not easy at all to find out what keys to flourishing are. Positive psychology has certainly thrown some light on this (see for instance Barbara Fredrickson's work: http://bit.ly/aB1Qs which, by the way, shows that there are subtle non-linear processes involved in thriving).

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  9. None of the quotes.

    Actually what I liked about your post was your initial reaction to hearing about the book, because I think it was the right one:
    "I had never heard of Obama and thought the book was a new self-help book and Obama was some new guru."

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  10. Hi Paolo,

    Thanks for your comment. I insist I was mistaken with my first impression :) It is not self-help at all... but I agree Obama has something of guru. At least in the way he is regarded.

    I understand not everybody can like him or what he says. So far, the majority of the responders don't seem to like the quotes a lot... Maybe because they were taken out of context...

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  11. You are right, it is not self-help at all...
    it is government-help! :)

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  12. Hi Paolo, I have no idea why, it is just a gut feeling, but I am guessing you are slightly skeptical of Obama's politics? :)

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  13. Hi Coert,

    the quotes as such - not really. But in the context of a book review they certainly worked for me, because now I'm curious to read the book! :)

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