‘The story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage’
– A Promised Land
My first review of 2021 and it’s of a fascinating and very intense read, A Promised Land by Barack Obama. Published on November 17th 2020 with Viking/Penguin, it is described as a ‘beautifully written and powerful book…captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.‘ Having previously read the wonderful Becoming (Nov 2018) by Michelle Obama I was intrigued to discover more about Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States.
[ About the Book ]
A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making, from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.
Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.
A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.
This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.
[ My Review ]
A Promised Land is the first volume in the presidential memoirs of a man who brought something fresh, something new to politics. A voice we are all so very familiar with, it is one that transcended the noise and brought a sense of calm, a sense that we were all safe. Since Barack Obama’s presidential life came to an end after two terms in office, we have had a new voice, one that evokes very different feelings across the globe and one that is now too coming into it’s final days.
When Barack Obama’s presidency ended, the world waited to see what both himself and his wife, Michelle, would do next. Writing is something that they are both extremely accomplished at and in 2018 Michelle Obama released Becoming, giving us all an insight into a very special marriage, one that has seen it’s fair share of challenges. Now Barack Obama brings us all behind the doors of The White House and right into the Situation Room, The Oval Office, the private residence and much more. We fly on Air Force One and take a trip on Marine One. We meet influential figures from across the globe and witness the frenetic behind-the-scenes negotiations and the last minute deals that took place off camera. All very crucial points in history – social, political, environmental, humanitarian and more. In the midst of all these fascinating facts and figures, Barack Obama wanted to bring an honesty to his account, to give all his readers the opportunity to see what life, in all its colours, is really like for a President of the United States. Using his own personal experiences and airing many of his own personal views, A Promised Land, reads very much like a fly-on-the-wall documentary.
“I confess that there have been times during the course of writing this book, as I’ve reflected on my presidency and all that’s happened since, when I’ve had to ask myself whether I was too tempered in speaking the truth as I saw it, too cautious in either word or deed, convinced as I was that by appealing to what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature I stood a greater chance of leading us in the direction of the America we’ve been promised…”
The original intention was for this book to be within 500 pages but, as Barack Obama discovered, he had much more than that to say. We are all very used to his pronounced, clear and ordered manner of speech delivery. He is an excellent orator who inspires hope and confidence. With the help of top-class speech makers, he delivered many memorable podium moments lifting the crowd and making folk feel that he was the one who could deliver. He was a community organiser turned president who really believed he could bring all the changes needed for a more equitable and fair economy, through healing racial divides, providing equal healthcare for all and supporting peace across the greater world. He had worked at ground level and was compelled to act and bring comfort to those who needed it. But his early days in The White House soon revealed that any change, no matter its size, would involve catastrophic shifts in thought and a constant haggling across his own party members, his staff and of course the GOP (Republican Party), as well as many government and private lobbyists, all wanting their own piece of the pie, all looking for something in return.
The Promised Land at over 700 pages was a daunting read. I have no affiliation to or knowledge of American politics and, admittedly, there were times when much of the governmental in-fighting went a little over my head. But I picked up this book determined to learn more about a man that I have always very much respected on the world stage, a man that I trusted would always do right for the world at large. Setting a target of 100 pages a day over the festive period, it wasn’t long before I became caught up in this extraordinary book. Yes it is a politically heavy book but it is much more than that. We get a glimpse of the real Barack Obama and the pressures he was continuously under on a daily basis, as he made balanced decisions that were not always his own personal choice but were the best option available to him.
There are a selection of stunning photographs in the book, all chosen for reasons personal to Barack Obama. They add a very meaningful edge to this memoir, adding an extra layer to this most complex of persons. A Promised Land is a reflection that takes the reader up to the end of Barack Obama’s first two years as president (including the election) with insight into the recession years, the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the eventual ‘taking out’ of Osama Bin Laden, the personal attacks from Donald Trump about his nationality and of course his relationship with his wife Michelle and two daughters Malia and Sasha. It is very evident that the family dynamic was and is everything to the Obamas and the transition for their children was always foremost in their minds. The global recognition very obviously restricted the lives of his children and how they interacted with their friends and others. He portrays their struggle for normality with great candour and the crisis of conscience it caused him on a daily basis and it is this honesty that draws the reader in, keeping them immersed in this exceptional memoir.
“Over the past two years, I’d made countless decisions. They had left me familiar with, if never casual about, the possibilities of failure. Everything I did or had done involved working the odds, quietly and often late at night in the room where I now sat. I knew that I could not have come up with a better process to evaluate those odds or surrounded myself with a better mix of people to help me weigh them. i realized that through all the mistakes I’d made and the jams I’d had to extract us from, I had in many ways been training for exactly this moment…”
Barack Obama on his impending decision to send in Navy SEALs to raid Osama Bin Laden’s compound
A Promised Land is a book that flows very well with great thought given to the way information is best conveyed to the reader. Barack Obama is not a debut writer with two previous published books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, both very well received across the literary world and beyond. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner (2009), an award that he received after only eight months into his presidency and one that he reflects on with great openness in his writing. He is a politician, an attorney, an author, a husband, a father and much much more.
An outstanding book, A Promised Land by Barack Obama really is a powerful and passionate read, one that stirs many emotions in the reader. It is a love story, which captured the imagination, of two strong-minded people who had hope for a better future in their hearts. It is a presidential memoir that provides a concise and very informative insight into life in The Oval Office. A phenomenal read. A must read.
About The Author
Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States, elected in November 2008 and holding office for two terms.
He is the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and the New York Times bestselling author of Dreams from My Father, The Audacity of Hope, and A Promised Land.
He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Michelle. They have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Excellent review, Mairead! I’ve read his first autobiography but not this one of his time in office – sounds very interesting. x
Janet highly recommend. I was enthralled by it. Especially given the current climate! Thanks so much x
I’m listening to it and it is just amazing! Fab review! xx
Meggy thanks so much. It’s such a fantastic read x