A Promised Land is the Presidential memoir of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. Obama was a positively historic President for the US, as he was the first black President to serve as commander in chief in a country whose history is seething with racial strife. His election was a momentous occasion for millions of Americans, and it was especially important for young people of color growing up in a country that previously felt like such a position was out of their reach. He was and still is an extremely polarizing figure, either adored or demonized depending upon which side of the political divide one falls. In reality, any human individual who has ever sat in the seat in which he sat contains flaws, and he is no different. No President has ever made perfect decisions, just as no other flesh and blood person has ever made perfect decisions. The difference is that the President makes decisions in front of the entire nation and the entire world and will be forever judged by those decisions. And will also have to deal with a whole lot of malarkey flung their way, which should just be ignored, as he deftly demonstrates in this book.
Truly, I was most amazed at Obama’s determination. No matter the obstacles, he accomplished so much in the face of the worst political obstruction the United States has seen for many years. He just refused to break. He never lost his will to fight, and he never lost his good humor, which I honestly feel is his biggest accomplishment. He faced more undeserved hate than any President to come before him, and he still managed to hold onto his dignity and grace. And to the people who claim Trump received more hate, he deserved every bit of that. You receive back what you put out into the world, and I can tell you that if a man walked up to me on the street and treated me the way #45 famously treats women, he would have received the response from me he deserved. And then he would have needed medical treatment for his tiny balls if they could be located after meeting with my knee. Moving on…
Oh, how I miss this family. As with Michelle’s book, Becoming, I found myself overcome by a bit of sadness when reading A Promised Land. The reason for that should be obvious. I knew how it ended. I knew it ended with the near erosion of his legacy at the hands of someone incompetent, inept and completely devoid of intelligence or reason. As a matter of fact, one of the most fascinating parts of this presidential memoir was seeing through the President’s eyes the United States’ descent into chaos. I was encouraged by his good-natured response to the vitriol he received during his time in office, including his response to the bully Trump who jumped on the birther bandwagon to further his political ambitions, a strategy which sadly worked for him, proving there’s still a sector of the population that responds well to the alpha male neanderthal mentality. Obama was successfully able to shut out all the noise, even cracking jokes at his own expense, and stay focused on the tasks at hand, a credit to his professionalism and single-minded intensity, as well as his belief that the common good will always prevail. Sadly, this last thing many of us are still desperately hoping will one day prove to be true, as there seems to be so little goodness in the world in this the year of our Lord 2021…
As far as content, this book is incredibly thorough and concise. It is a very detailed and expertly written account of Obama’s entire first term, which culminates with one of his crowning achievements, the killing of Osama Bin Laden by a team of real life badass superheroes without capes. His account was so detailed and so real that I felt like I was in the room with them all during the taking of that iconic photo. Obama is a natural born story teller. He narrates the audiobook himself, and it was positively divine listening to it. It has the feel of sitting in the coffee shop across the table from him while he tells his story. Though, it would be a 30 hour coffee date, so I wouldn’t drink a whole lot of coffee and make sure to take lots of breaks!
If I’m being completely honest, I’m not much of a nonfiction reader, and I tend to get lost in some of the details. Overall, I still found this book to be very enjoyable and very educational. I loved getting to see his perspective during all these events I remember and some that I didn’t remember. With him at the helm I felt a bit more comfortable coasting along and focusing on my own life, floating along dreamily in the middle of a crystal clear lake surrounded by the chattering of birds and chirps of crickets. Unlike the subsequent administration who I felt like was constantly trying to pry my fingers away while I desperately clung to the slippery railing of a speeding boat, my body dangling over an abyss of dark and murky shark-filled despair. You kind of can’t stop paying attention when you don’t feel comfortable about the direction you’re being led. Oh, how quickly the tide can turn when people get complacent. You never know when your fellow passengers are going to hand the boat keys over the side show monkey who throws poop at people and screeches maniacally just to hear himself screech.
Truly, I think this book was something I needed to read to bring myself back to center. It was a great reminder that there have always been bad times, but there have always also been people reasonable enough to take back the keys and put the monkey back in the cage so he can’t do any more damage. This book is an incredible look into the life of a complicated and honorable man, and it’s also a detailed look into the everyday struggles of a United States President, both personal and professional. It’s a fabulous dose of truth from a man whose image is often blurred by lies and misinformation. It’s nice to really get to know the human man behind this mythic fixture in American politics. 5 stars for this well-written, thorough, and captivating memoir.
Published November 17, 2020 by Random House Audio. ASIN B08HGH9JMF. Run time 29 hrs. 10 mins. Narrated by the author.