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Book Reviews

Promised Land

Book Review

by Lauren Alise Schultz

The first volume of Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs is over 700 pages long, or if you prefer, over 30 hours on audiobook. This memoir is no small time commitment. Much to my amusement, Obama said in multiple interviews that he thinks a better writer could have more concisely told the story that he wanted to tell. Well Mr. President, I respectfully disagree.

A Promised Land is lengthy because the breadth and depth of the story Obama had to tell is incredible in both scope and importance. Yet he manages to convey the politics, context, nuance, and complications of each political situation in a way that gave me a new appreciation for the incredibly wide range of economic, social, and geopolitical responsibilities of the president. And even though I lived through all these events, following some of the politics perhaps a bit more than the average person, I still feel like reading this book gave me a much clearer understanding of everything that transpired during that time, from passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to events in Benghazi. A few of the passages about foreign relations got a bit hard for me to follow, but Obama’s retelling of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden is riveting.

And while these events are all politically complicated episodes on the world stage, Obama relates these events, and many more, with an honesty, vulnerability, and humanity that makes the book both moving and entertaining. He reflects on his frustrations in various situations, his desire to help so many more people, and the heavy weight he feels regarding his military decisions, and the seriousness of having responsibility for American lives, both military and civilian. He also describes his worries over how his political career and then his role as president was impacting his marriage to Michelle and his daughters. There were many moments that he recalls in the book, both personal memories and moments on the political stage that he shared with the American public, that made me tear up or laugh out loud.

Obama has stated several times that his goal in writing A Promised Land was to convey the totality of the presidential experience – the events themselves, the decisions made, and also the personal day-to-day happenings and considerations. From my perspective, he did an impressive job with what he set out to do and I am eager to read (listen to) the second volume, whenever it is published.

Promised Land
President Barack Obama 02b
U.S. President Barack Obama
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