A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I've always had an interest in reading presidential memoirs. Even as a high school student too young to understand every nuance of Bill Clinton's My Life, I could recognize the unique perspective of his journey and the decisions he was faced with that would impact not only his personal life but the lives of those he was elected to govern. Years later, George W. Bush's Decision Points helped illuminate his response to the horrific terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the lengthy military action that followed. Politics aside, I think that we can all agree that it's a lot to ask of one person. Every four years the weight of the entire country is set upon the shoulders of a single American. They are elected to guide the nation through whatever challenges and hardships arise, all while we look on and judge every move they make. 

If every President faces immense challenges and scrutiny, then the historical presidency of Barack Obama faced that tenfold. In his memoir A Promised Land, Obama chronicles his unlikely rise through community organizing and local politics to becoming the first African American to be elected President of the United States. He candidly recaps the great responsibility that comes with running a country, never shying away from the toll that obligation took on him. Intermingled with the sprawling geopolitical recollections are those of the quiet in-between moments of a man and his family. It is these moments, the kind that the public only glimpsed as he served, that makes Obama's memoir one of the most personal political writings that I've ever read. 

By all conventional wisdom, Barack Hussein Obama should have never become the President of the United States of America. Born from a biracial couple and bearing a name so different from those of his predecessors, his path to the White House is as unique as he is. He spent much of his early years in search of an identity. Guided by the idyllic vision of his mother and the more practical outlook of his grandparents, Barack gained a worldview of working hard and doing what is right for himself and others. This would form the foundation of his personal and political ideals and propel him to a life of public service. 

The lead-up to his election was nothing short of spectacular. Running in a crowded Democratic primary against the juggernaut front runner Hillary Clinton, Obama's grassroots approach to running a campaign was seen as a huge gamble. But his methods paid off.  He seemed to capture the enthusiasm of those he met, exciting record numbers of Americans to turn out to vote. His candidacy wasn't without its detractors, especially from the other side of the political aisle. While John McCain always came to the defense of Obama against the most heinous of personal attacks, a fired-up Republican Tea Party was out for blood, foreshadowing the political divisiveness that would cloud much of Obama's eight years in office. 

Even before his presidency began, Obama was faced with some of the greatest challenges of any American President. The country was on the verge of economic collapse, leaving millions of Americans jobless and in financial ruin. A bipartisan stimulus deal helped to turn the tides, but recovery would be a long and strenuous process that would slowly take place across his first term. And what a term it was. Ambitious initiatives around diplomacy, healthcare, and climate change were all undertaken as Obama also faced the challenges of unexpected political moments like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and the military operation that would lead to the death of Osama bin Laden.

Barack Obama has always had a way with words, and the first volume of his presidential memoirs is no exception. A Promised Land sees the former president thoughtfully reflect upon the run-up to and the duration of his first term in office. I was struck by the huge aspiration that Obama approached his presidency with. And with good measure. He ran a campaign built upon hope and change, and a majority of the American population placed their confidence in him to deliver it. When he arrived in the Oval Office, he was faced with the reality that achieving everything he promised wouldn't be without challenges and opposition. He writes about the self-doubt that comes with trying to run the country in a way that aligns with his morals and those of the people who elected him. The book is wordy. Obama takes his time describing the details of each historical moment, giving due course to all of his decisions. Unlike other political memoirs, however, I never felt that the wordiness bogged down the writing. In fact, it only further added to my appreciation for the depth and care with which Obama devoted to his time in office. Whatever your opinions of his politics, I think that there is great value in reading a memoir like this one. A Promised Land brilliantly illustrates Barack Obama's devotion to family, country, and the American dream. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2021, 31)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 and is filed under ,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

16 Responses to “A Promised Land by Barack Obama”

  1. Great review, Ethan! I have the audio version on hold at the library because I'm really interested to hear his story in his own voice. I certainly miss the days when Obama was in office.

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    1. I bet the audio will be great. Either way, there's no mistaking that his voice shines through the words in this one!

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  2. I love this one so, so much. I tore through it as fast as I could, because as I was reading, I could hear his voice in my head speaking the words. It was like having a conversation with an old friend who you miss terribly because the new friend is not a friend at all and is actively trying to get everyone killed.

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    1. I definitely missed his voice over the last 4 years!

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  3. The weight and responsibility of being president...I can't even imagine that! The fact that anyone even wants to take on that job always amazes me.

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    1. Right? I would be breaking down every day haha.

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  4. Can't say I have ever read a bio of someone famous, I know!

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    1. Bios are usually pretty hit or miss for me, but this on is exceptional.

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  5. This is probably one of the few presidential memoirs I'd want to read. He sounds like he really respected the weighty role he was given and tried to do right by the American people. What a difference from the last guy!

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  6. Fantastic review Ethan. I listened to this one and he is eloquent and thoughtful in his approach.

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    1. I agree. I really feel like he's taken a measured and thorough approach to telling his story. It makes for fascinating reading.

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  7. I'm about 1/2 way through the audiobook but my loan expired so I'm waiting for it again. I kind of wish I had skipped the first part. Between his and Michelle's earlier books I had already known most of the stories about his early life, what drew him to politics, his community work, getting married.

    I was just getting to the good stuff lol

    I really miss him and his steady leadership and always jump at a chance to hear his (or Michelle's) voice.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    Great review!

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    1. That's a good point. The first part of this one is definitely rehashing some of the material from his other books, but I think he's got a bit more hindsight to guide him now.

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  8. I'm not the person to read memoirs, but this is one I would LOVE to read. The one of Michelle Obama as well :)

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    1. Michelle's book is fantastic too. I reviewed it here a few years ago!

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