“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (2)

Each time we go into lockdown, I find a really long book to read. In this third lockdown, I’m working my way through the first volume of Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs. In fact, it is 200 pages into the 700 page text before he wins the presidency.

First, he tells us about his time at Columbia University in New York, his work as a community organiser in Chicago, his studies at Harvard Law School, his period as a Illinois state senator, and his unsuccessful attempt to enter the House of Representatives. He is frank about the strain that his political ambition put on his marriage to Michelle. He admits that “we began arguing more” with “my marriage strained”.

Yet, two years after his defeat, he runs for the US Senate – a decision he acknowledges represents “brashness” and “sheer chutzpah” – and wins easily in a race that “felt charmed”. Fascinatingly, one of his initiatives in the Senate was “funding to safeguard against a pandemic outbreak”.

As if such a meteoric rise was not enough, just two years into what should have been his first six-year term as a senator, Obama decided to have a go at the White House. In these memoirs, he spends more space describing the tough battle to win the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton (85 pages) than he does narrating his easier fight in the general election against John McCain ( 50 pages).


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