October 20, 2006

Obama kicks off tour on home turf

[img id="80089" align="alignleft"] Hundreds of Hyde Park residents and Chicagoans began lining up outside 57th Street Books at 5 a.m. to meet Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as he signed his new book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.

The signing kicked off a national book tour that included stops downtown at the Michigan Avenue Borders Books and at the First United Methodist Church.

The publication of the new book comes at a busy time for Obama, who has been making campaign appearances for Democratic candidates and attending fundraisers. Time Magazine wrote a cover story on the senator for its October 23 issue.

When the senator, a Hyde Park resident, stepped out of a gray GMC Suburban in front of the bookstore around 8:30 a.m., the crowd met him with cheers of “Obama for president” and “2008.”

The book follows the success of his memoir and #1 New York Times bestseller, Dreams from My Father. After the 2004 election, Obama signed a $1.9 million three-book deal with Random House, Inc. that includes The Audacity of Hope, a book for children, and a third book, according to media reports.

In The Audacity of Hope, Obama criticizes the partisanship in Washington, D.C. and discusses the possibility of building consensus through a new style of politics.

Aaron Krager, a Hyde Park resident and student at the Chicago Theological Seminary, was among the first people in line.

“I wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity to meet and get a book signed by a significant politician that I admire so much,” Krager said. “I’m very excited about the new book—I’ve read excerpts. It’s really good, and he’s not afraid to give constructive criticism.”

Pressed for time and surrounded by local media, Obama did not make a public statement and limited the number of books he would sign. Every local television station in Chicago covered the event, as did local radio stations and a documentary crew following Obama.

However, the senator did say to the crowd, “I have to be loyal to my bookstore.”

In addition to being a U of C Law School senior lecturer (currently on a leave of absence), Obama signed his first book 10 years ago at 57th Street.

First-year in the College Supriya Sinhababu said meeting Obama was worth the one-hour wait and the line stretching around the block.

“He was nice and had a warm handshake,” Sinhababu said. “He asked me my name, if I wanted to be a lawyer; I told him no, and he said that was good.”

Thomas Flynn, the events coordinator for Seminary Co-Op Bookstores, was pleased with the turnout for one of the largest signings in 57th Street’s history.

“It’s very nice to have someone like Obama come, who’s a regular customer and knows a lot of the people here,” Flynn said. “The event was a really fun experience for the staff and it did incredible sales.”

The store sold more than 400 copies of the $25 book, Flynn said.