Monday, February 2, 2009
I remember when I first heard the title of President Obama’s book. It’s a writer’s phrase. Hope would not ordinarily be audacious – as in outrageous dreams, or plucky plans, or fanciful intentions.
The phrase puts two unlikely words together. In combination, they make you think. The verbal tension triggers the imagination. What kind of hope is this?
It suggests this: when someone who has every reason to be hopeless turns around and embraces hope, there’s a near reckless abandon about it. The one without hope will generally win sympathy. Ah, but when the light of hope shines in the eyes of the hopeless, well, that is audacious. When dreams and ambitions emerge in the context of grim and harsh realities, it’s daring.
The idea for the book came from his pastor. I’ve talked to people who live in the neighborhood of the church – down the street from the University of Chicago. Most folks who attend there believe they’ve been misrepresented and misunderstood. The life of their church goes on – with a special brand of lingering audacity.
The book appeared in October of 2006, after Obama’s speech in the 2004 Democratic Convention – which is now history. He wrote it himself. I thought it was time for me to read/listen to it… so I downloaded the audio version. I took along drive across the desert this week, a good time cue it up.
In the audio book, the author is also the reader. Obama tells the story of the his commitment to community development that began on the South Side of Chicago, There, a keen interest in politics emerged: including his first failed attempt to be elected to the Illinois State Legislature. He talks about his secular upbringing; a mother who had little interest in religion. He explains how he came to faith – and was baptized at the Trinity United Church of Christ. Growing up without a father, he found Michelle. He met her family. Her father inspired him to become the dad he never had.
You may not agree with him – but read/listen to the book and you’ll get an idea why he captured the imagination of voters in 2008.
How hopeless is it out there? Ask the former clients of Marcus Schrenker, an insurance agent from a town in Indiana called Noblesville. He made headlines last month when his financial and marital indiscretions became public knowledge in an open courtroom. A short time later, he staged an accident from high altitude when he made a false mayday call over the radio, set his high performance Pilatus aircraft to autopilot and jumped out the door with a parachute on his back. The plane crashed. The feds nabbed him. He’s back in court.
The strange case of Marcus Schrenker captured the headlines because the high drama typifies something of the current era. Spurious wealth. Skirting the rules. Hiding from the truth. Once admired as success – the picture of the American dream come true. Now known for what it really is. All this from a town called Noblesville.
Who are the victims? When Bernie Madoff made off with fifty billion, who suffers? Everyone. Cynicism comes over us like a flood. Hope fades.
I like the idea of hope that is audacious. It’s a precious commodity. Maybe, in this world of global financial crisis, it’s making a comeback.
It’s audacious hope that would grip a young man without a dad, and cause him to embrace great expectations. Big, hairy, audacious goals. Noble goals.
We need that now.
We are leaders on this Monday morning. The odds have turned against us. How powerful is the hope that stirs within us? Is it audacious?
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009