Edith Green Memorial Lecture Series


Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes, and the American Political Tradition

Streaming Media

Document Type

Video File


2 hours 5 minutes 15 seconds

Publication Date



American Politics | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Political Science | Political Theory


Derided by the Right as dangerous and by the Left as spineless, Barack Obama does not fit contemporary partisan categories. Instead, his writings and speeches reflect a principled aversion to absolutes that derives from sustained engagement with American democratic thought. In his book Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes, & the American Political Tradition, author James T. Kloppenberg (Charles Warren Professor of American history at Harvard University) covers the sources of Obama's commitment to democratic deliberation: the books he has read, the visionaries who have inspired him, the social movements and personal struggles that have shaped his thinking. Kloppenberg says that Obama's positions on social justice, religion, race, family, and America's role in the world do not stem from a desire to please everyone but from deeply rooted—although currently unfashionable—convictions about how a democracy must deal with difference and conflict.

Following Kloppenberg's remarks, Dr. Peter Berkowitz (Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University) offers some critical comments on those arguments before engaging with Kloppenberg and the audience in conversation about these ideas.


Sponsored by the Edith Green Endowed Lecture Fund, the Linfield College Dean's Speaker Fund, and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.