Barack Obama’s A PROMISED LAND is the first volume in his presidential memoirs. The memoir touches lightly his childhood, education, and early years in politics as a community organizer and state senator, and then details his first term as President of the United States. Volume two will cover his second term.
I must admit that I had never read a presidential memoir and I expected it to be cracking dry with policy speak, but what I found instead was an almost poetic narrative highlighting the challenges and opportunities he’s faced personally and politically. Obama is a gifted storyteller; rather than letting the narrative get bogged down with rote policy and timelines, he leavens it with personal reflection. It would be easy to lose sight of oneself when you are the ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, but Obama is not afraid to look sideways at himself. When he received the call notifying him that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize only a year into his first term, he asked himself, “For what?” And in the ensuing months, when he made the difficult decision to send more troops into Afghanistan, he wondered if people would judge him an imposter.
The thing that saved Obama from his ego is his uncompromising ability to understand and acknowledge his humanity — his weaknesses and strengths. With an unflagging commitment to truthfulness, Obama turned an eye first on himself, then his administration, and finally his opponents.
Reading A PROMISED LAND, one can’t help compare Obama’s legacy with that of his successor . . . from the size of the inauguration crowds to his response when he acknowledged the responsibilities of the separate branches of power, and his belief that public officials are fodder for public scrutiny and criticism. Within his administration, he embraced opposing opinions in order to bring greater clarity to a decision.
With all his challenges and successes, including a divided Congress, the passage of the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act, his humanity was never more evident than when he visited a wounded soldier or comforted a grieving family. Obama never shirked the ultimate responsibility of the Commander in Chief – to keep his people safe. Whether those decisions were made from the situation room as he watched the capture of Osama Bin Ladin or as a response to Malia’s plea to “save the tigers” at a Global Climate Conference, it is clear that Obama was a leader who put country before self and understood that global stability translated to national stability.
A PROMISED LAND is an honest exploration of Obama’s first term and he doesn’t shy away from admitting his mistakes. Covering the global financial crisis, the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Wall Street reform, and much more, A PROMISED LAND is a sweeping account of an historic presidency. Regardless of your political leanings, it’s worth a read or a listen. I was transfixed by the audiobook which he narrated. If Obama’s post presidential aspirations don’t pan out, he certainly could have a future as an audiobook narrator. His ability to narrate this 700+ page memoir, replete with the voices and dialects of others as disparate as Putin, Michele and his daughters, Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham – is remarkable. Not as remarkable as his stint as being the leader of the free world, but impressive in its own right.
I recommend A PROMISED LAND for fans of Doris Kearns Goodwin and Bob Woodward.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews.