Friday, April 23, 2021

‘A Promised Land’ by Barack Obama

23 April 2021

‘A Promised Land’ - Barack Obama’s memoir covering the presidential election of 2008 and his first term in office - is a doorstop of a book at nearly 800 pages, but it’s fascinating and very readable. Obama is a self-deprecating author, generous with his praise of colleagues and those international partners he likes - and polite but clear about those he doesn’t. As he introduces us to the many many aspects of the presidency, he provides really helpful two-page summaries of the backstories to a wide range of global issues such as Israel/Palestine, Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union etc. He explains the tightrope he had to walk as the first African American president, coping with the hostility he experienced from some while always being aware of the importance of the symbolism and hope he provided to many. ‘A Promised Land’ is also a lesson in leadership: Obama says much about the nature of democracy, reflecting on how free and fair elections (for example in Afghanistan) are only one element of what is needed for true democracy, and outlining in painful detail the compromises that are needed to pass domestic legislation. Barack Obama comes over as reassuringly humble, sensible, principled and determined - a grown-up in the Oval Office.



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