(Note: this was originally written around the time of Obama's inaugration last year).
Or as it should probably be known, Barack Obama's first election manifesto. Obama is unquestionably the most exciting political figure in the Western hemisphere in my lifetime. Rather than the tired dogmas that have dragged down previous election campaigns he ran on a platform of positivity and hope, summed by his simple and brilliant slogan 'Yes, we can'. It was inclusive and challenging to the electorate, invigorating.The hook here is to see what we can divine of Obama's possible actions as President. It's clear from the book that he's genuinely unaffected by the cynicism that often develops in politicians, but that his enthusiasm is tempered by intelligence and thoroughness, setting forth what he sees as the major issues facing modern America and possible solutions.And instead of rendering politics a dry, dead subject, as professional politicians often do, Obama makes the subject engaging. Policy is never talked about in abstract terms, he always gives a human dimension to the issues and has a gift for striking imagery that encapsulates the ideas he's trying to get across (speeches to an empty Senate chamber, the stunning view from a jet). And the prose itself is beautiful, although occasionally becoming flowery. It's a book you couldn't imagine any of his recent predecessors (particularly the immediate one) having the sincerity, compassion or way with words to write. Whereas the previous regime tried to link compassion with conservatism, one read of this book should show them what compassion truly looks like, and in this case it isn't just a hollow word.Obama himself comes across as a man of rare perspective, probably due to his eclectic, catholic (the small c is crucial there) upbringing. He seems open to ideas and genuinely thoughtful as to the wide ranging effects policies may have. His beliefs and conclusions are based on thoughtful analysis tempered with human compassion - almsot too good to be true. I actually finished the book even more fascinated by the possibilities of Obama's term. If he is a man of deeds as well as words, and he's alllowed to follow the guidelines he sets down here, then his Presidency may live up to the hope and expectations placed upon it.