Barack Obama · 375 pages
Rating: (118.8K votes)
“I believe in evolution, scientific inquiry, and global warming; I believe in free speech, whether politically correct or politically incorrect, and I am suspicious of using government to impose anybody's religious beliefs -including my own- on nonbelievers.”
“We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expressions of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them,and drives us further apart.”
“A nation that can't control its energy sources can't control its future.”
“another tradition to politics, a tradition (of politics) that stretched from the days of the country’s founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done.”
“Someone once said that every man is trying to live up to his father's expectations or make up for their father's mistakes....”
“I wonder, sometimes, whether men and women in fact are capable of learning from history--whether we progress from one stage to the next in an upward course or whether we just ride the cycles of boom and bust, war and peace, ascent and decline.”
“I wish the country had fewer lawyers and more engineers.”
“We hang on to our values, even if they seem at times tarnished and worn; even if, as a nation and in our own lives, we have betrayed them more often that we care to remember. What else is there to guide us? Those values are our inheritance, what makes us who we are as a people. And although we recognize that they are subject to challenge, can be poked and prodded and debunked and turned inside out bu intellectuals and cultural critics, they have proven to be both surprisingly durable and surprisingly constant across classes, and races, and faiths, and generations. We can make claims on their behalf, so long as we understand that our values must be tested against fact and experience, so long as we recall that they demand deeds and not just words.”
“Each path to knowledge involves different rules and these rules are not interchangeable.”
“Maybe the critics are right. Maybe there's no escaping our great political divide, an endless clash of armies, and any attempts to alter the rules of engagement are futile. Or maybe the trivialization of politics has reached a point of no return, so that most people see it as just one more diversion, a sport, with politicians our paunch-bellied gladiators and those who bother to pay attention just fans on the sidelines: We paint our faces red or blue and cheer our side and boo their side, and if it takes a late hit or cheap shot to beat the other team, so be it, for winning is all that matters.
But I don't think so. They are out there, I think to myself, those ordinary citizens who have grown up in the midst of all the political and cultural battles, but who have found a way-in their own lives, at least- to make peace with their neighbors, and themselves.
...I imagine they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point. They don't always understand the arguments between right and left, conservative and liberal, but they recognize the difference between dogma and common sense, responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that last and those that are fleeting. They are out there, waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.”
“faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts... [you] still experience the same greed, resentment, lust, and anger that everyone else experienced... the lines between sinner and saved [are] more fluid; the sins of those who come to church are not so different from the sins of those who don't... You [need] to come to church precisely because you [are] of this world, not apart from it; rich, poor, sinner, saved you [need] to embrace Christ precisely because you had sins to wash away... that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world...”
“In distilled form, though, the explanations of both the right and the left have become mirror images of each other. They are stories of conspiracy, of America being hijacked by an evil cabal. Like all good conspiracy theories, both tales contain just enough truth to satisfy those predisposed to believe in them, without admitting any contradictions that might shake up those assumptions. Their purpose is not to persuade the other side but to keep their bases agitated and assured of the rightness of their respective causes - and lure just enough new adherents to beat the other side into submission.”
“Mainly, though, the Democratic Party has become the party of reaction. In reaction to a war that is ill conceived, we appear suspicious of all military action. In reaction to those who proclaim the market can cure all ills, we resist efforts to use market principles to tackle pressing problems. In reaction to religious overreach, we equate tolerance with secularism, and forfeit the moral language that would help infuse our policies with a larger meaning. We lose elections and hope for the courts to foil Republican plans. We lost the courts and wait for a White House scandal.
And increasingly we feel the need to match the Republican right in stridency and hardball tactics. The accepted wisdom that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists these days goes like this: The Republican Party has been able to consistently win elections not by expanding its base but by vilifying Democrats, driving wedges into the electorate, energizing its right wing, and disciplining those who stray from the party line. If the Democrats ever want to get back into power, then they will have to take up the same approach.
...Ultimately, though, I believe any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we're in. I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. For it's precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and the sheer predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country. It's what keeps us locked in "either/or" thinking: the notion that we can have only big government or no government; the assumption that we must either tolerate forty-six million without health insurance or embrace "socialized medicine". It is such doctrinaire thinking and stark partisanship that have turned Americans off of politics. ”
“make away out of no way”
“There are a whole lot of religious people in America, including the majority of Democrats. When we abandon the field of religious discourse—when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations toward one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome—others will fill the vacuum. And those who do are likely to be those with the most insular views of faith, or who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.”
“For half of the world's population, roughly three billion people around the world living on less than two dollars a day, an election is at best a means, not an end; a starting point, not deliverance. These people are looking less for an "electocracy" than for the basic elements that for most of us define a decent life--food, shelter, electricity, basic health care, education for their children, and the ability to make their way through life without having to endure corruption, violence, or arbitrary power.”
“I began feeling the way I imagine an actor or athlete must feel when, after years of commitment to a particular dream...he realizes that he's gone just about as far as talent or fortune will take him. The dream will not happen, and he now faces the choice of accepting this fact like a grownup and moving on to more sensible pursuits, or refusing the truth and ending up bitter, quarrelsome, and slightly pathetic. ”
“And it's safe to assume that those in power would think longer and harder about launching a war if they envisioned their own sons and daughters in harm's way.”
“America is big enough to accommodate all their dreams.”
“The stakes involved in Washington policy debates are often so high-- whether we send our young men and women to war; whether we allow stem cell research to go forward-- that even small differences in perspective are magnified. The demands of party loyalty, the imperative of campaigns, and the amplification of conflict by the media all contribute to an atmosphere of suspicion. Moreover, most people who serve in Washington have been trained either as lawyers or as political operatives-- professions that tend to place a premium on winning arguments rather than solving problems. I can see how, after a certain amount of time in the capital, it becomes tempting to assume that those who disagree with you have fundamentally different values-- indeed, that they are motivated by bad faith, and perhaps are bad people.”
“I realized that in some unspoken, still tentative way, she and I were already becoming a family.”
“Eventually my rejection of authority spilled into self-indulgence and self-destructiveness, and by the time I enrolled in college, I'd begun to see how any challenge to convention harbored within it the possibility of its own excesses and its own orthodoxy. I started to reexamine my assumptions, and recalled the values my mother and grandparents had taught me. In this slow, fitful process of sorting out what I believed, I began silently registering the point in dorm-room conversations when my college friends and I stopped thinking and slipped into can't: the point at which the denunciations of capitalism or American imperialism came too easily, and the freedom from the constraints of monogamy or religion was proclaimed without fully understanding the value of such constraints, and the role of victim was too readily embraced as a means of shedding responsibility, or asserting entitlement, or claiming moral superiority over those not so victimized.”
“What I could not support was "a dumb war, a rash war, a war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics".”
“The conservative revolution that Reagan helped usher in gained traction because Reagan's central insight - that the liberal welfare state had grown complacent and overly bureaucratic, with Democratic policy makers more obsessed with slicing the economic pie than with growing the pie - contained a good deal of truth.”
“But by the end of two years, most have either changed careers or moved to suburban schools - a consequence of low pay, a lack of support from the educational bureaucracy, and a pervasive feeling of isolation.”
“It's in the misery of some unnamed slum that the next killer virus will emerge.”
“Illinois preschoolers were temporarily saved from the debilitating effects of cereal and milk.”
“I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are struggling in this society. After all if they are like us, then their struggles are our own. If we fail to help we diminish ourselves.”
“No, what's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics--the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working concensus to tackle any big problem.”
“To go to sleep one night with your child nestled inside you and wake up the next with no evidence your child ever existed is like waking up in a nightmare that never ends.”
“The world becomes a wider place, with but a little learning.”
“How can you be so sure of the way you feel about me?” “You’re human,” Aren says. “You’re the weakest person I know.” The warm, fluttery sensations in my stomach disappear. “Geez, thanks.” He laughs and takes my hands in his before I turn away. “And that makes you the strongest. The most courageous. When I found you on your campus, you fought me. You didn’t give in even though you knew you were outmatched. I was halfway in love with you before we reached Germany.”
“Noel was her very best friend - even if she wasn't his. Noel was her person.”
“Jon gave Simon a patronizing pat on the shoulder. “I’m going to miss your witty repartee this summer, Lewis.”
“I’m going to hope you get eaten by a spider demon this summer, Cartwright.”
George slipped an arm around both of them, grinning maniacally and humming “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”
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