6 Essential Things to Remember From the Book “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama

A fascinating book about an extraordinary man.

Sylvain Saurel
Nov 19, 2020 · 7 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by Sylvain Saurel

It will soon be four years since Barack Obama left the White House. If the idea of a book retracing his life appeared quickly after the end of his double term as President of the United States, Barack Obama will have taken time to complete the writing of the first volume of his memoirs.

The Obama couple had signed an agreement for more than 60 million dollars for the writing of their respective memoirs. Barack Obama was slower than Michelle Obama.

The ex-First Lady had indeed published her memoirs at the end of 2018. Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” will have been a resounding worldwide success.

For Barack Obama, it took three and a half years to put his life down on paper. And yet, the book “A Promised Land” which has just been released in the United States and the rest of the world represents only the first part of Barack Obama’s life since a second volume will appear in the future.

The book “A Promised Land” looks back at Barack Obama’s childhood, his ascent to the top of American power, and the highlights of his first term in the White House.

After having read this fascinating book, I propose you to come back to 6 essential things put forward by Barack Obama. A way to make you want to discover this book in your turn.

Demystifying the presidential function

Through his book, I felt that Barack Obama was trying to demystify the presidential function. Barack Obama wants to go against the misconception that politicians are different from the rest of the population.

For Barack Obama, in a democracy, those who accede to positions of power remain human beings with fears and doubts.

He wants to warn about the gap between reality and the public image that is created over time. The 2008 presidential campaign with the slogan “Yes we can” had allowed Barack Obama to become a true icon.

Nevertheless, we must not let ourselves be trapped by this. A president remains a fully-fledged human being who can make mistakes even if he seeks to serve the collective interest as best he can.

If it is normal to expect mountains and wonders from a President of the United States, one must also be realistic so as not to fall before things that he will not be able to do in only four years of office. Being President of the United States is a job like any other for Barack Obama.

Seeing the past honestly to build a better future

The question of racism naturally comes up very often in “A Promised Land”. Barack Obama hopes that his book can help people work more on the issues of the past.

Barack Obama explains that digging into the past by looking at it honestly is essential. This is what can liberate us and allow us to move forward. Without looking at the past, it is impossible to come to terms with it and move forward.

This naturally brings us back to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which leads a whole section of the American population to ask themselves these types of questions. Seeing Vice President Mike Pence refused to simply say “Black Lives Matter” when social anger was at its peak in June 2020 is symptomatic of this problem.

Without awareness of this problem, it is impossible to solve it and then move forward.

In his book, Barack Obama wants to show that it is necessary to go beyond the usual discourse of defining issues of race as victim or perpetrator. He advocates saying that it is a human situation.

For him, it is necessary to see above all the humanity of those who were at the top of the racial hierarchy and those who suffered from prejudice and sectarianism. The goal is to be able to see them as whole people, with good and bad sides.

This return to the human is something that is often mentioned in Barack Obama’s book. It is a fundamental notion for him.

The great world leaders as seen by Barack Obama

As President of the United States, Barack Obama has had frequent meetings with other major world leaders. Barack Obama, therefore, shares his feelings about several of these leaders.

He draws a flattering portrait of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany:

“Merkel had big, bright blue eyes in which one could read in turn frustration, amusement, or a hint of sadness. Moreover, her impassive appearance reflected her pragmatic and analytical sensitivity.”

Barack Obama also writes that he found Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, to be a fascinating character accustomed to the games of power:

“While we were exchanging some pleasantries, I noticed in him a certain casualness, an indifference in his voice, indicating that he was used to being surrounded by subordinates and solicitors. He was a man accustomed to power.”

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy takes him for his rank since Barack Obama compares him to a “dwarf rooster with a rounded chest”:

“The discussions with Sarkozy were amusing and exasperating in turn, his hands in perpetual movement, his chest bulging like that of a dwarf rooster, his personal interpreter always at his side, an exalted reflection of each of his gestures, each of his intonations, while the conversation went from flattery to boasting, without lacking genuine insight or ever straying from its barely disguised primary interest, which was to be at the heart of the action and to take credit for whatever was worth taking credit for”.

The importance of political ideals

After a tour of the great world leaders he has been able to meet, Barack Obama shares his thoughts as a statesman on the Arab Spring and its consequences.

Barack Obama also revisits his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan or to authorize the raid that ended the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

It is clear throughout the book that Barack Obama attaches great importance to political ideals. In an interview conducted for 60 Minutes following the publication of “A Promised Land”, Barack Obama confirmed this by justifying the title given to the first volume of his memoirs:

“Even if we don’t make it in our lifetime, even if we experience difficulties or disappointments on the road, at least I have faith in our power to create a more perfect union. Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.”

Despite the election of Donald Trump in 2016, and the four years of a presidency that followed, Barack Obama has still not lost faith in a united and better America for the future.

The origin of Evil with Donald Trump

Barack Obama obviously returns to the rise to power of Donald Trump. Throughout the pages concerning Donald Trump, we can feel that Barack Obama was caught off guard by Donald Trump’s success.

Barack Obama attributes this to the fact that he has little interest in social networks and does not watch television. So he did not see the rise of populism embodied by Donald Trump coming.

In retrospect, Barack Obama thinks he might have seen the rise of all the conspiracy theories supported by Donald Trump and his supporters.

He believes that the turmoil in American democracy today is rooted in the racist reaction to his election in 2008. It was a historic first for a black man in the United States.

His presence in the White House paradoxically served Donald Trump’s interests by promoting his election in 2016. For Barack Obama, it was as if his election had aroused “deep panic” among some Americans who then considered that the “natural order” had been upset.

Donald Trump was able to grasp this before anyone else and took advantage of it by spreading the false rumor that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, thus making him an illegitimate president.

Finally, Barack Obama believes that Sarah Palin, who was John McCain’s running mate in 2008, and the emergence of the Tea Party paved the way for what Donald Trump’s Republican Party is today.

For him, everything that was on the bangs of the GOP before has taken center stage in the past decade: “xenophobia,” “anti-intellectualism,” “paranoid conspiracy theories,” and “antipathy” to people of color.

Joe Biden, a “decent, honest, and loyal” man

When he wrote “A Promised Land”, Barack Obama did not know that his former Vice-President, Joe Biden, would become the 46th President in the history of the United States after the November 3, 2020 election.

Barack Obama comes back in his book on the reasons that pushed him at the time to choose Joe Biden as a running mate in 2008.

He explains that his experience and his ability to lead the country had been the central arguments in his decision. Barack Obama also claims to have quickly seen in Joe Biden a “decent, honest, and loyal” man. He had therefore followed his “instinct” in choosing him.

He was right since their duo worked perfectly together for eight years in the White House, and they became true friends over time.

Finally, Barack Obama salutes the courage of Joe Biden, who never hesitated during their eight years of collaboration to express opinions contrary to his own and other advisors’. Joe Biden had not hesitated to deliver his skepticism to Barack Obama concerning the American intervention in Afghanistan.


The first volume of Barack Obama’s memoirs, “A Promised Land”, is a fascinating book that will plunge you into the heart of his incredible life. It will allow you to discover what animated Barack Obama throughout his journey to the top of power in the United States.

You will also discover a deeply human man who always tries to see beyond clichés and appearances. This is something that comes up constantly in his book and that the United States needs more than ever today to hope for a better future.

(Disclaimer: This story contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase after clicking these links I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!)

Become a better version of yourself through the power of knowledge.

By The Power of Knowledge

The best of The Power of Knowledge in your inbox Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Sylvain Saurel

Written by

Entrepreneur / Developer / Blogger / Author. In Bitcoin We Trust: https://www.inbitcoinwetrust.net

The Power of Knowledge

Knowledge is the key to getting better and better every day. The publication is aiming to provide you with stories on different topics to help your better understand the world: personal development, productivity, motivation, inspiration, money, finance, racism, women, …

Sylvain Saurel

Written by

Entrepreneur / Developer / Blogger / Author. In Bitcoin We Trust: https://www.inbitcoinwetrust.net

The Power of Knowledge

Knowledge is the key to getting better and better every day. The publication is aiming to provide you with stories on different topics to help your better understand the world: personal development, productivity, motivation, inspiration, money, finance, racism, women, …

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store