The title of The Audacity of Hope was derived from a sermon delivered by Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. While a Senate candidate, Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention, entitled The Audacity of Hope that propelled him to national prominence. In the less than 20 minutes it took to deliver the speech, Obama was catapulted to sudden fame, with many analysts predicting that he might be well-positioned to enter a future presidential race. In 2006, Obama released The Audacity of Hope, a book-length account that expanded upon many of the same themes he originally addressed in the convention speech.
In his speech addressing the Democratic National Convention in 2004, Obama said:
In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here -- the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!
The Chicago Tribune credits the large crowds that gathered at book signings with influencing Obama's decision to run for president. Former presidential candidate Gary Hart describes the book as Obama's "thesis submission" for the U.S. presidency: "It presents a man of relative youth yet maturity, a wise observer of the human condition, a figure who possesses perseverance and writing skills that have flashes of grandeur. Reviewer Michael Tomasky writes that it does not contain "boldly innovative policy prescriptions that will lead the Democrats out of their wilderness," but does show Obama's potential to "construct a new politics that is progressive but grounded in civic traditions that speak to a wider range of Americans.
An Italian edition was published in April 2007 with a preface by Walter Veltroni, former Mayor of Rome, currently leader of Italy's Democratic Party and one of Obama's earliest supporters overseas, who met the Illinois Senator in Washington in 2005 and has been referred to as "Obama's European counterpart.