Monday, September 15, 2008

The Plan to Renew the Promise

Published this month, Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise is a book that lives up to its title.

Following a foreword by Obama and an introduction entitled "Hope for America," four chapters in "Part I: The Plan" describe what his administration would work to accomplish: "Reviving Our Economy: Strengthening the Middle Class," "Investing in Our Prosperity: Creating Our Economic Future," "Rebuilding America's Leadership: Restoring Our Place in the World," and "Perfecting Our Union: Embracing America's Values."

The book's second part, "The Call," features seven speeches by Obama, from his "Declaration of Candidacy" in Springfield, Illinois in February 2007 to his July 2008 address in Berlin, "A World That Stands as One."

The four chapters in "The Plan" set forth a catalog of policy proposals and reforms that are almost dizzying in their number and variety. Each one is mentioned only briefly and is sure to tantalize readers who feel passionate about it. The seven speeches, elegant and energizing, offer an inspiring counterpoint to this program for action.

While the speeches are splendid, it was the contents of "The Plan" that had an abiding effect on me, an effect greater than the sum of its parts. For while the federal government under any administration engages in numerous activities, what the Obama campaign advocates is something more than tremendous variety. It proposes governance that is bold and beneficial, confident and humane. In sharp contrast to the dysfunctional, negligent administration of the last two terms, Obama communicates something exciting, a commitment to leadership not dominated by secrecy and fear and polarization, but one that respects and trusts the American people. Barack Obama believes that citizens and government can enter into a powerful partnership yet again for the benefit of the nation and the world.

"The Plan" is conservative in the best sense because it recalls moments in American history when ordinary people took risks on behalf of freedom and justice. It is also a progressive manifesto, inviting the America of today not to surrender to complacency or despair, but to walk with determination into a bright future of increased equality and opportunity for all people.

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