Life writing by Stas Medvedev

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I was born in the Soviet Union and raised in modern Russia. It doesn’t surprise me that the vast majority of my even progressive fellow homelanders see American politics as in House of Cards. The image of the president of the USA well fits the ill portrayal of Frank Underwood. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

That makes ‘A Promised Land’ by Barack Obama, the 44th President of the USA, an absolute revelation.

768 pages long book is a pleasure to read. Its prose is cinematographic with good pace and lively scenes. This, what appears to be the first volume of the autobiography, covers the period from the inception of Barack Obama political career towards the end of his first presidential term. The focus of the memoirs is on the politics with a seasoning of personal stories. It lacks the intimacy even though the insights into his relations with Michelle and their two daughters Malia and Sasha often appear on the pages.

I enjoyed good humour throughout the book and liked precise characterizations and vivid portraits painted of many people he had encountered with. Among them are the members of his administration, American politicians and the world leaders.

“President Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, appeared to be a poster child for the new Russia: young, trim, and clothed in hip European-tailored suits. Except that he wasn’t the real power in Russia. That spot was occupied by his patron, Vladimir Putin: a former KGB officer, two-term president and now the country’s prime-minister, and the leader of what resembled a criminal syndicate as much as it did a traditional government — a syndicate that had its tentacles wrapped around every aspect of the country’s economy.”

Those who were not following the media or simply not that politics savvy might find it helpful when Obama provides a background context to the events described. Even if you are well familiar with the facts, it is enticing to learn the president’s perspective. I welcomed the author’s merit to share different considerations on decisions he took.

In the first two parts of the book, Obama takes us on the adventurous journey of running for the most powerful office in the modern world, which culminates with ‘Yes We Can’ presidential campaign.

In the book’s course, Obama lifts the curtain and shows the human enterprise of the federal government. People who suffer failures, celebrate triumphs, strive for the best outcomes, and just do their job. Presidential job is a constant political warfare with the Republicans as the key antagonists. This competition is both the obstacle and the driving force.

We learn the challenges Obama’s administration faced in the first 100 days from handling the economic crisis to delivering on election pledges. Expect thrilling saga of Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare and behind the scenes of the recovery act. Domestic affairs from Beer summit and two controversial bills: DREAM Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Foreign policy includes the withdrawal from Iraq, Arab Spring and Libyan War Intervention, anecdotal “gangster shit” intrusion at a climate summit, military presence in Afghanistan and the neutralization of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Disappointedly, not much on a Nobel Peace Prize. “For what?” he asks.

Even though Barack Obama is the first African American president, he didn’t speculate about racism, and I respect his obligation to model an inclusive workplace.

The book leaves me with a powerful impression of Barack Obama being a chronic idealist who stood a chance to lead the nation with his own moral compass in the direction of America we all had been promised… A Promised Land.
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