A Ukrainian Journalist Responds To Barack Obama’s Great Book

A Ukrainian Journalist Responds To Barack Obama’s Great Book


By Oksana Kamienieva, participant of The Odessa Review journalism seminar and workshop

The Audacity of Hope was the second book written by the American President Barack Obama (The first was “The Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance”). The book published in 2006 outlined the president Obama’s opinions on different aspects of American culture. It speaks about his campaign for the presidency, with a title derived from a sermon delivered by Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Having attended Wright’s sermon, Obama later adapted Wright’s phrase “audacity to hope” for his speech which became the title of the 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address which propelled his political career.

The core of the book centers on his analysis of the basic elements of leadership: the aspects of communication between the politician and the citizenry. Obama outline aspects of the issue whose determinative factors are the basis of the formation of a political leader. He analyzed various approaches to this issue. Political leverage is to be found in the formation of public perception of a political leader, such as competence and sociability (ability for social interaction). He also speaks about the American tradition of attributing the problem with our politics to the quality of our politicians.

Barack Obama has written about how he entered the presidential race and proceeded to do what every first-time candidate does. He talked to anyone who would listen. He went to block club meetings and church socials, beauty shops and barbershops. If two guys were standing on a corner, hе would cross the street to hand them his campaign literature. And everywhere Obama went, he was asked the question of why he wanted to enter into a dirty and nasty pastime such as politics. Despite it all, Obama’s policy positions on a host of issues, from education to health care to the war in Iraq were popular enough to propel him to the White House..

After two terms during which he labored in the minority, Democrats gained control of the Illinois State Senate, and Barack Obama subsequently helped pass a slew of bills including reform of the Illinois death penalty system and an expansion of the state’s health program for kids. Obama had also continued to teach at the University of Chicago Law School, a job he enjoyed. Obama also had idea of running for the United States Senate. He found a small office, printed letterhead, installed phone lines and several computers. Four or five hours a day, he called major Democratic donors and tried to get his calls returned. He also held press conferences to which nobody came.

The book is careful in it’s presentation of the interaction between a leader and his social groups, opponents, journalists throughout election cycle.

Most voters think  that everyone in Washington is “just playing politics,” meaning that votes or positions are taken contrary to conscience, or out of other considerations, that they are based on campaign contributions or the polls or loyalty to party rather than on trying to do the right thing. The author posits that political labels determine the electoral behavior of voters. The majority of voters in the election explained that “personal sympathy” with the candidate was important to them. Based on Obama’s insights we can see that there is vivid tendency to elect political leaders based on their personal data. Thus, the tendency to vote for reform is observed in proportion to the growth of one’s wealth levels. Voting is almost a given for the “top” layer of voters who have a higher education.

The American president is very lucid when he speaks of distinguishing between the defeat of a common man and defeat of a political leader. Ultimately, he does not suggest that politicians are unique in suffering such  public disappointments, but unlike most people, who have the luxury of licking their wounds in private, the politician’s defeat, just like his victory, is on public display:

“They’re the sorts of feelings that most people haven’t experienced since high school, when the girl you’d been pining over dismissed you with a joke in front of her friends, or you missed a pair of free throws with the big game on the line — the kinds of feelings that most adults wisely organize their lives to avoid”.