From Publishers Weekly
Barack Obama was heralded as the next Lincoln before he was even elected. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize without actually having achieved peace anywhere (even in places such as Afghanistan, where peace would be arguably under his control). Cobb has written a lyrical ode to Obama's symbolism: the first black president; the "hip" biracial outsider; the logical successor to Martin Luther King, Jr. Ironically, the book and the President both lack results. Cobb writes beautifully, but he often gets lost in the Obama myth. He's at his most compelling when he leaves the poetry for the pulpit and lets the professor in him take charge (noting, for instance, Obama's astute political calculations, like cutting ties with Jeremiah Wright). Yet his analysis is anything but erudite; Cobb often references pop culture. "In 2002," he recalls, "reporters asked Denzel Washington what it meant for three African Americans to be in contention for the Academy Award. He replied, 'It means that three African Americans are in contention for the Academy Award.' I am tempted to answer the question about the meaning of the black presidency with the same terms." While more hope than substance, Cobb's book is still an eloquent meditation on the meaning of the Obama presidency, all 18 months of it.
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Clear, concise writing, a conversational tone, and cogent arguments make this a compelling read, particularly for those with an interest in Obama's presidential campaign and election, but also for students of politics, history, and the Civil Rights Movement. (Library Journal
Cobb is especially good on the contrast between Obama and Jesse Jackson, whose celebrated work had opened many doors for Obama, but who now failed to inspire most young African-Americans. Obama embodies the face--multiracial and cosmopolitan--of the next generation, and his 'ultimate significance may be less as a president than as a harbinger of what comes after his presidency.' A rich, provocative meditation on the importance of Obama's election. (Kirkus Reviews
William Jelani Cobb has written a smart and observant reminder of the candidacy and election of President Barack Obama....This little book is packed with common sense observations that are given weight and meaning through Professor Cobb's academic and historical insight. (Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University
Barack Obama's presidential campaign shone an incisive light on the nation's attitudes about race and on the roots of black political empowerment. William Jelani Cobb provides a wealth of historical background and an eloquent appraisal of the present, as he narrates how a grassroots movement and a cadre of young people (the Joshua generation) successfully fought the established political machine for the hearts and ballots of the black community. An insightful and thought-provoking book. (Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP
William Jelani Cobb's The Substance of Hope
is a deft analysis of many vectors brought to bear on the unexpected rise of Barack Obama. With a specific eye towards the overlap between race and age, Cobb deconstructs the politics of the civil rights generation in the Obama age with nuance and honesty. A provocative book, from a provocative mind. (Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of The Beautiful Struggle