Last night I began reading Barack Obama's second book called The Audacity of Hope, which references a line he spoke during his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention at the Fleet Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The book is just under 400 pages long, although the print is big and the book isn't, and I got through the first 100 before succombing to the need to sleep, about 11:00 pm.
While Obama's message (thus far) is impressive and inspiring, his writing style (thus far) is not, but it is not bad enough to take away from the message. I am enjoying the book. As I have said, if I were voting with my heart, Barack Obama would get my vote on the first ballot. But, my mind says we need someone with more experience, and that someone for me is Hillary Clinton. I am hopeful her running mate is Mr. Obama.
Reading his book thus far, I can identify with many thoughts, especially given that he is just one year younger than me. It is a sign you really are finally getting old when you are considering supporting someone for vice president who is younger than you are. He is and I am.
Obama mentions my home town here on the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606 on page 49, which was halfway through last night's reading. Other than the towns identifying politicians, places within his home state of Illinois, and the large metropolises of New York and Los Angeles, Louisville, along with Little Rock, are the first two cities he mentions by name. He describes the southern part of the state of Illinois as being more in tune with Little Rock or Louisville than with urban areas such as Chicago, his home. He has mentioned that he likes to travel the southern part of his state for town-hall type meetings, held in high schools, city halls, or college facilities. That he has some liking for Louisville was evident upon his visit here back on September 14 at Slugger Field. He said that Louisville was a regular stop for him on his trips back and forth between Illinois and Washington, DC. That night an estimated 5000 to 6000 people heard him give a speech entitled "Had Enough?" Later in the evening, a private DSCC fundraiser [originally written as DCCC, but corrected after being told of my mistake by an anonymous commenter] was also held. Listening to him speak is a pleasure. He has a style of run-on sentences, an style which sounds as if one thought is leading to another with little segue, but the whole seems to all be very naturally connected.
In reading the book last night, I experienced something I do not recall ever having experienced before. I've read hundreds, maybe thousands, of books. Very rarely have I known or been close enough to the writer, to know and hear their voice when reading their words. This is not the case with Obama. I have been close enough to hear him, having met him that night in September, hearing him speak, that now I could hear him speak the words I was reading from his book. So, not only was I reading his words, I was hearing them as well. Just in the last few days had I ever even heard of this concept. Over the weekend, I was speaking with a friend from the northern part of the Commonwealth who told me she had been reading this blog and one of the things she said to me was that she could hear my voice when reading my words. Since none of us really hears ourselves as others do, it was interesting for me to know that some of those reading can actually hear me saying these words. That's how I felt reading Obama's book.
There are other comforting things I am taking from the reading. He speaks of his meeting early in his senatorial career with the Dean of the Senate, Robert Byrd, now the longest serving senator in the history of the Republic. Byrd carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket. He cites from it in many speeches and often refers to it as the rule book for the governance of America. Most of my friends know that I, too, am a student of the Constitution, though not of the caliper of the Senior Senator from West Virginia, indeed the Senior Senator from the United States of America. Obama, on the other hand, cites from the Declaration of Independence in the book, just as he did when giving the speech in Boston in 2004.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
The idea that "all men", and hopefully by now, 231 years later, we all accept that by the words "all men" we mean "everyone," has certain inalienable rights, is a central theme for anyone who believes in civil and human rights as a bedrock of their political creed. I am one of those. So, apparently, is Senator Obama. That word, inalienable, is a rather unusual one, and in all my years of reading those hundreds or thousands of books mentioned above, the only place I've ever read it is in the United States Declaration of Independence. Breaking it down etymologically, you get to its Latin root alius meaning other. We have words such as alien, alias, and alibi, all related to this word. By adding the Latin prefix in or un, meaning not or opposite, you get to the idea that an inalienable right is one which, belonging to one, cannot be moved to another; that is, an inalienable right cannot be taken away - they are yours, now and forever, world without end, Amen. And among these, according to the document, are "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." It is important to note that the founders did not limit these inalienable rights to just those three ideas, but rather that those three are among others not ennumerated in the document.
I'm looking forward to reading more of Obama's book tonight and the next few nights. He will be here in Louisville, again, this Sunday for what is known as a small-dollar fundraiser, meaning the tickets are in the $25.00 range. I intend to go and listen and hear him speak in the voice that I know, and probably the words I'll be reading during the next few days. In my profile attached to this blog, one of the words I use to describe myself is optimistic. Optimism implies hopefulness. There is a daring to be bold and brave in expecting, as an optimist does, that hope does spring eternal. In the Bible, in Paul's Letter to the Romans, at Chapter 12, Verses 11 and 12, he writes "Be thoroughly warm-hearted, the Lord's own servants, full of joyful hope, patient under persecution, earnest and persistent in prayer." That takes some work - being hopeful and patient, especially under persecution, as I believe our Republic and its Constitution are under the junta of George Bush and Dick Cheney.
Obama calls us to be bold, to have the audacity which hope entails. It is a worthy goal.