A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Reading A Promised Land by Barack Obama reminded me of something Yuval Harari said, that any politicians who would say the whole truth would not get elected. I’m not saying this because I think Obama lied, but because the book showcases the political intrigues during elections and in Parliament, it shows how facts are less important than perceptions even in what is supposed to be (perceptions again) the most democratic country in the world. I don’t see US like that, which is quite disheartening.

I did not follow Obama’s campaign in 2008 because who was the president of US made very little difference for me, less than now, when I’m living in UK. The book promises to be: “A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the makingβ€”from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.” I can’t agree with that. There are personal stories, but not as many. Also, after reading the book I am not inspired to believe in the power of democracy, as it shows the power struggles on both sides, politicians being more interested in their next election than a support package after the financial crash or the implications of climate change. It made it easier for me to understand why Trump was elected, as an answer to traditional politicians and how much they undermined the trust people have in them, on both sides of the political spectrum.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I was expecting an interesting book and it was, but, it was so long, at 700 pages. Although I think the book would have been easily made more accessible, at 550-600 pages without loosing anything from its meaning. I gave it 3 stars because the book is a bit of a mismatch. Reading it made me wonder who is the target audience. There are 3-4 pages of descriptions of a specific event which implies that the reader is not supposed to know about that particular issue, but, at the same time, there is a list of names of advisors and so on. I doubt that anyone who is interested and knows X or Z government advisor is not privy to the Middle-Eastern problems or the Arab Spring.
He fails to mention how much social media and internet played a part in his 2008 election, which is a bit strange, but understandable at the same time.

Obama acts, at times, as a conceit American who thinks that he knows best because he is American, the so-called leader of the free world. He brushes off faux-pass like Michelle’s touching the Queen, saying that it doesn’t matter. Well, it does. He might be the most important person in US, but he is not the most important person in the UK, hence, Michelle made a mistake when she touched the Queen. It would have been just as if she went to Saudi Arabia or any Arab state in a miniskirt with a cleavage just about covering her modesty. When invited in a country, one should respect their customs. It’s not a sign of power, but of insecurity not to. The whole story would have been easier to dismiss if an apology was issued, instead of the “we were right” approach. Michelle felt comfortable with the Queen and she made a gesture of closeness, which is natural in almost all occasions and there is nothing wrong about that. The fact that it’s brushed off, that’s the problem, at least for me.

I will share a passage from the book, which stood out for me, and it was one of the reasons I gave the book 3 stars too, from page 571 [his italics]:
“…to stop drilling entirely; but that wasn’t going to happen because at the end of the day we Americans loved our cheap gas and big cars more than we cared about the environment, except when a complete disaster was staring us in the face; and in the absence of such disaster, the media rarely covered efforts to shift America off fossil fuels or pass climate legislation, since actually educating the public on long-term energy policy would be boring and bad for ratings; and the one thing I could be certain of was that for all the outrage being expressed at the moment about wetlands and sea turtles and pelicans, what the majority of us were really interested in was having the problem go away, for me to clean up one more mess decades in the making with some quick and easy fix, so that we could all go back to our carbon-spewing, energy-wasting ways without having to feel guilty about it.”

If only the person writing this was not the leader of the free world for 8 years, with the possibility to influence lots of aspects, from school curriculum to having online talks instead of flying to different countries, picking more veggie food instead of “comfort food”, and talking about climate change in press conferences.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 3/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Crown Publishing Group
Year it was published: 2020
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Memoir
Pages: 751

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 author of two previous New York Times bestselling books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, and the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
Website & Social Media Links: –

12 thoughts on “A Promised Land by Barack Obama”

  • Interesting review! While I fell for the Obama hype at the time, I’ve come to the conclusion that mostly what people liked about him was that he wasn’t George W Bush or Donald Trump! I know it’s hard for any American President to achieve much, but Obama really achieved remarkably little over his eight years in power, and most of what he did achieve was symbolic rather than actually improving the lives of those who were struggling. And I agree about that arrogance that suggests Americans don’t have to respect other countries’ traditions.

    • Yes, you are so right. I think he is ok, but seems amazing when compared to #43 and #45 πŸ™‚

  • There are SO, SO many things I could weigh in on here, but maybe it’s best that I keep my mouth shut.

    I’ll just say that I don’t see the next four years as something to look forward to politically. Biden is nothing but a career politician and many of his ideas (fiscal more than social) are just too liberal for my taste. Since the US seems stuck in a two-party system (I often vote third party, though they rarely win) we had no decent options this time (or in 2016, for that matter). And I’ll also add that what was seen last week (which I’m not condoning in any way) is not an accurate representation of the ENTIRE “right”, anymore so than painting all liberals with the same brush. (remember the events of the spring and summer when many from the left were burning police precincts, state and federal buildings, and destroying and looting innocent people’s businesses) There are sensible people on both sides and many like me (in the middle) who just don’t fall into either camp.
    Kelly recently posted…Books for December 2020My Profile

    • I think the two party system is not working, and not only in US, but everywhere. Politicians are too afraid to take a stance against party lines that real debate is brushed aside. Also, regardless of what the party in power does, the opposition has to say that they made mistake after mistake, or risk not getting votes next time.
      I heard Biden saying something that horrified me, his plans to raise the minimum wage. In a pandemic and recession the only thing small businesses need is a raise of the minimum wage. I imagine that will mean redundancies which will lead to more economic hardship and more redundancies. When I heard him saying that in the debate I couldn’t believe it.
      I fully agree with you on that a few lunatics are not representative of the whole right, the same as a few lunatics of the whole left. Sadly this is the discourse and tribalism, social media, and narratives on news channels create a distorted reality for many.

      For me is hard to see these things in US. I was raised looking at the UK and US as examples of democracies and now I see bickering and you are with us or against us kind of politics. If I was to vote in the US election I am not sure which way I would. I’m opposed to the Republican views on guns, abortion, and gay rights. I can’t agree with Democrats on minimum wage and Bill Clinton was not exactly gay-friendly either – Marriage Act.

      • You’re absolutely right. Our two party system has become so “us and them” that I fear no one ever votes their conscience or convictions. Instead, it’s all about staying within “party lines”. (and I don’t think either party, particularly the Republican party, is the same, belief-wise, as it was even twenty years ago)

        As for minimum wage…. it has always been my understanding that minimum wage jobs are part-time or entry level jobs – not jobs meant to support a family. So, no…. I’m not in favor of raising it. And I agree with your comment about “distorted reality”.

        The Libertarian Party has a platform with which I can most closely relate. (and libertarian is another word that has different meanings. The LP is not a group of anarchists) I can both agree and disagree with the Democrats and the Republicans, depending on the issue. When it comes to monetary things, I’m quite conservative, but I’m mixed on some of the social issues. Two that I feel strongly about are gun rights (I’m in favor) and abortion. One of my biggest peeves about the abortion issue is the way it’s labeled. You’re either “pro-choice” or “pro-life”. Put that way, I’m definitely pro-choice, but that doesn’t mean I think late term abortions are right or that it should be used as a form of birth control. There are a lot of gray areas in the debate. What it comes down to for me is that it’s not the government’s place to make that choice for me.

        There’s always been a joke if we could keep the Democrats out of our pockets and the Republicans out of our bedrooms, the country would be a different place.
        Kelly recently posted…Books for December 2020My Profile

        • My views are that the government should interfere as little as possible in regulation, including on monetary issues, although I am in favour for more regulation when it comes to tech businesses. I think people should be allowed to have guns, but that shouldn’t mean anybody should be able to buy a gun from a random shop. For me, gun ownership should be like owning a car, everybody is expected to have their car registered and have insurance. A similar scheme can be made for guns and, of course, just as anybody can buy as many cars as they want, this could be the same for gun ownership as well. As for abortion, like you said, it’s not the government place to make that choice for women.

          Love the jokes on Democrats and Republicans, I will remember it. :))

  • Hi Anca,
    Ah! Politics, religion and money, are all very emotive subjects and I am probably better off holding my own council about them. Given recent events in the US, I think that a Democrat in The Whitehouse is definitely the preferred option over the gun toting Republican thugs we saw on our screens over her last week! However, as the whole world is shot to pieces at the moment, I don’t think that short-term it is going to make much difference either way. Our own UK politics is as much of a complete mess and I keep waiting for the news break that Boris has quit, as I am certain that is going to happen sooner rather than later! I don’t think any politician tells the whole truth, but that is generally because they have to tow the party line, so we never really get to hear what they actually think about things. I’m sure that Obama isn’t ‘whiter than white’ by any means and I do agree that there should be respect and understanding about the protocols of any overseas country being visited. However, once again I look at some of the Faux Pas our own Royal family and politicians have committed when they have travelled overseas and that puts the whole Michelle incident into perspective. Anyway! this isn’t a book I would probably read, so I shall bow to your judgement about its merits and faults. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    • I don’t see it like you do. From my point of view, the last thing a country needs is an election during a pandemic. Also, I don’t see the problem(s) with how the UK’s government handled the pandemic. Just looking across the Channel, I can see many more problems than in UK. I fully agree that Boris and the others made mistakes, some big ones, but, at the same time, I don’t see any western countries who did better and did not have to lockdown their people again and again. On top of that, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands exported COVID patients to Germany because they were overwhelmed, and that happened in the 2nd wave, not the first. The testing in EU is not as good as ours, the vaccinations are a joke. Germany, for all their talk of EU solidarity, bought extra doses of vaccine for them, bypassing EU. As it stands today, UK has more people vaccinated against COVID, per capita, than France, Germany, Spain, and Italy combined! This is not something mentioned on BBC or Sky though.
      For all the talk about how bad are some of the food parcels the free-school meals children received.. there are other countries in EU where this doesn’t happen at all. In Romania, for example, poor children get a cup of milk and a bun as a “meal” and, when the lockdown started they did not receive anything. The fact that in UK children receive food and the quality is under review, there are checks and problems with them are known rapidly and, possibly, solved, is hardly a bad thing.

      Getting back to the book, the thing that annoys me with Michelle is not what she did, a small mistake, but that she and Obama never admitted that it was a mistake. I think the Queen should receive the same attention as a leader of a small Arab state. The fact that the Royals and politicians made mistakes too is irrelevant.

      • I told you we shouldn’t have started a discussion about politics! πŸ™‚
        I am also very pro EU and think that Brexit was a huge mistake and the notion that us ‘Little Englanders’ are ever going to become a great World influencer again, is just ‘pie in the sky’ talk. The days of the British Empire are well and truly gone and we haven’t exactly covered ourselves in glory over the years! I used to be quite a Royalist, especially with Dave being in the military, however I think that once The Queen dies, the monarchy will no longer command that same appeal, respect and presence around the world. Yes! maybe Michelle Obama should have apologised for the lapse in protocol, which only goes to highlight the blase US attitude towards decorum, however given some of the very unseemly things which Prince Philip has said to other world leaders over the years, it really is no biggie, although I would defend The Queen to the hilt if she had demanded an apology! πŸ™‚

        • If you look at what happens in EU with covid, I would say they don’t cover themselves in glory either. I’m not pro EU as it stands. I think the differences between the countries are too big for as much inclusion as they want. I am just as horrified when I hear “European values”, when it means nothing, when you compare views and laws on gay rights or abortion within European countries. My extended family lives in EU and I would have loved to see them do better, but I can’t. When, as a EU citizen, my life in UK is less important than the fishing rights the French have and they bickered until Christmas about that… I’m not looking favourably towards them.
          If the EU had remained a commercial alliance without talks of European army, without so much red tape and intrusion upon legislation, I don’t think UK would have left.

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