There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Audacity of Hope

When I started commuting using RT on Feb. 1, I understood that there would be trade-offs. For instance, driving solo after the commute hour (my workday is basically 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) took about 20 minutes. Riding the bus with a perfect connection to the train gets me to work in a little more than an hour.

But the extra time it takes to get to work is not lost time. Instead, it is an opportunity to read. Before I switched to RT, I seldom had time to read, or at least I seldom found the time. Always, something else took priority. Now I get at least an hour and a half total of "recreational" reading. (As a copy editor, I get all together too much reading done during work.)

The other day I finished my second commute book. It was Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope, Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream." I picked the book because I knew nothing about Obama. By the time I finished the book I was simply in awe of the man.

I hate to use the jacket cover quote to explain what I mean, but John Balzar, the Los Angeles Times political reporter, really hit the spot with this:

"[Few] on the partisan landscape can discuss the word 'hope' in a political context and be regarded as the least bit sincere. Obama is such a man, and he proves it by employing a fresh and buoyant vocabulary to scrub away some of the toxins from contemporary political debate. Those polling categories that presume to define the vast chasm between us do not, Obama reminds us, add up to the sum of our concerns or hit at where our hearts otherwise intersect."
To speak of hope and sound sincere reminds me of John F. Kennedy. More accurately, it reminds me of the hope I felt was lost in the vacuum left by Kennedy's assassination. Unlike John Kerry, who tried much too hard to model his life to be an image of Kennedy, Obama is Kennedy, the leader with hope. In a way, Obama is the liberal twin of Ronald Reagan's Morning in America.

I cannot recall a book written by a candidate for president that spoke so clearly. If you only have time to read a chapter while having coffee in Borders, look at the chapter on family, or the one on race.

My biggest complaint about every politician I am familiar with is that each behaves as if a poll or a campaign contribution guided every action. Obama, on the other hand, appears to have a genuine set of beliefs that guide him. He is not an ordinary politician.

I certainly hope that is true.

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