“We hold on to a dream, a hope and an aspiration for a better future. In realizing this dream we have to shed parts of us, let go of our hardline stands, accept to compromise and work with others to realize the dream. Most importantly, we shouldn’t let go of that hope.”
It’s been a great two weeks reading the former President of the United States, Barack Obama’s second book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Being a book on current affairs with an inclination on his work as a law maker and a politician at that, he gives outstanding insights from his experiences, accounts of incidents in history and reflections that fuel his hope for a better America. Reading this book has been an enlightening moment reading with an African and specifically a Kenyan lens. Acknowledging the challenges we are facing in our society, it gives a sense of commonality of our struggles and the desire to have a welcome a new dispensation. The diversion comes in our ability to work for it and the anchor upon which this is to happen. In the case of the USA, they focus on an American dream that’s invoked from time to time and individuals strive to put it to context as per their prevailing circumstances. As a nation, this is one thing we lack.
The book is divided into different chapters covering: Party Politics (Republicans and Democrats), Values, Constitution, Politics, Opportunity, Faith, Race, The World Beyond Our Borders and Family. Through the different chapters he explicitly depicts the scenarios that play out in our lives as individuals driven by a common desire to succeed in life, little concern for the values and ideals in specific instances, hardline stances that we take to satisfy our interests and closed-mindedness that prevents us from viewing circumstances from other peoples perspectives. This last one is the reason as to why I enjoy reading, viewing the world from another perspective, critiquing it and finding applicable lessons for your life.
We are a time that the world is highly polarized both in the political spheres, by religion, racism is still a challenge with the current campaigns on #BlackLivesMatter, gender inequality, economic inequalities, scramble for global power between the West and Asian countries among others. These not only are drawbacks to human development but also are impediments to sober, strategic action. For a period of time we have been going back and forth because nobody is willing to lose and while this is happening we are losing as a society as most people are ending up disenfranchised and marginalized than before. We need to reflect on our hopes and aspirations as the human race, let go of the antagonistic approach to life and adopt collaboration & partnerships that create mutual value and allow us all to thrive. These should be anchored on values and ideals that we hold dear as a society which can be prescribed by our cultures or religions provided they stay within the confines of our liberties and do not infringe on other peoples’ freedoms.
Access to opportunities plays a critical role on whether we realize our dreams or not. It’s a tough gamble to acknowledge that as a society the stakes are hinged against us yet we are doing little to address the systemic flaws. I remember reflecting on the challenges that face us ranging from poor governance, unemployment, racism, income inequality, gender inequality among others and realized that it’s not getting better. When I focused on the unemployment crisis I could fail to notice that we are in a lucky lot able to find some few jobs to land. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer jobs are being created with more people graduating with nowhere to go. It means that at the time my children will be getting our of schools the hope of ever getting meaningful employment may have been abandoned. How do we get to do all we do when that hope isn’t there? It’s a scary reality that we have to contend with every single day and I hope we rethink our decisions and choices for a better future.
I hold onto the dreams and aspirations of Benjamin Franklin as for a legacy in his writing to his mother:
“I would rather have it said; He lived usefully, than, He died rich.”
Ps. I recommend everyone to read the book and reflect on it as you go over the insights and accounts as documented in light of our current circumstances.