Opinion With A Promised Land, Obama Reminds Us He's America's Storyteller—And Holds Out Hope
Obama: Trump "promised an elixir" for the "racial anxiety" of Americans spooked by a Black president
Tump "promised an elixir" for the racist anxiety Obama's election stirred in white Americans, the ex-president says A Promised Land by Barack Obama Crown Publishing
Barack Obama knows how to tell a good story. He published his first memoir,, about his upbringing as the son of a Kansas-born mother and Kenyan father, at the age of 33. He entered the national political stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a on the promise of America. And throughout his campaign for president four years later and his two terms in office, he spoke to the American public with artful speeches using the power of his rhetoric to celebrate in times of triumph and to calm the nation’s nerves in times of hardship.
Obama’s storytelling captivated the country—and the world—in part because of his unique biography and oratorical abilities. But his stories also resonated, making him a bestselling author and then a national figure, because they offered a nuanced yet affirming narrative about America. He told us how the country was built, acknowledgingwithout getting lost in it, and offered a positive vision for our future. The U.S., he argued, is imbued with a set of ideals that have allowed it to slowly but surely overcome its checkered past and become a force for good in the world. “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story,” he said in his 2004 address. “In no other country on earth is my story even possible.”
Why Barack Obama Dedicated A Promised Land Memoir to Wife Michelle and Daughters Sasha and Malia
"I'm reminded constantly that there's no place in the world I'd rather be than with Miche and our girls," Barack Obama wrote as he reflected on the joys of fatherhoodOn Saturday, the former president, 59, revealed that when his eldest daughter Malia, now 22, was born, he made a promise to “always" put his family first.
Over the past four years, Obama has at times seemed like a distant memory,when his successor has invoked his name in blame for problems. With President Donald Trump, we’ve heard a , one at once detached from truth and closely intertwined with the reality of centuries of American racism and xenophobia.
And so Obama’s A Promised Land, the first of his two-volume presidential memoir, seems to come at an ideal time. The 768-page tome is most immediately a thoughtful reflection on his career, including the first years of his presidency. Obama takes readers through the behind-the-scenes details of legislative battles like his successfuland failed attempt at passing , offering new details sure to titillate D.C. politicos. His insight into his mindset during his biggest presidential moments is a reminder of his thoughtfulness at a time when deep thought and reflection are desperately needed in the corridors of power.
Why Obama Fears for Our Democracy
In an exclusive interview, the former president identifies the greatest threats to the American experiment, explains why he’s still hopeful, and opens up about his new book.This was not meant to be commentary on the Trump presidency—not directly, at least. In any case, Obama has more respect for Genghis Khan than he has for Donald Trump. He raised the subject of Genghis Khan in order to make a specific, extremely Obama-like point: If you think today’s world is grim, simply cast your mind back 800 years to the steppes of Central Asia. “Compare the degree of brutality and venality and corruption and just sheer folly that you see across human history with how things are now,” he said.
But perhaps more importantly for America’s national project, from cover to cover, A Promised Land is a reminder of the narrative that Obama has spent his career enunciating. His preface opens with the declaration that he holds out hope for the country. His discussion of foreign policy makes the case for a robust U.S. presence on the international stage, a defense of American exceptionalism in an era when many on the left would rather speak of the nation’s many historic wrongs. On race, he treads carefully, much like he always has, acknowledging how the country’s history of oppression, which he describes as “centuries of state-sponsored violence,” continues to shape America today—while recognizing that many white Americans have, for the most part, moved beyond that racist history for the better. His search for a middle-ground on racial injustice—one that is rooted in the reality of systemic racism but believes in the possibility of change—is part and parcel of his search for a narrative that can unite the nation. “The idea that our common humanity mattered more than our differences was stitched into my DNA,” he writes. “It also described what I felt was a practical view of politics.”
Obama’s Memoir Is an Exercise in Ironic Realism
The former president’s detachment allowed him to see the emerging political landscape before others did—and kept the presidency from extinguishing his literary light.If Abraham Lincoln had outlived his presidency, he might have left us a wise and brooding masterpiece. John F. Kennedy’s would have been rich with irony and a sense of history. But the autobiographies of recent presidents are all pretty forgettable. The one presidential memoir that became a classic—Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant—is overpraised by people who haven’t read it. Grant’s talent as a writer consists of the same quality that made him a great general: his dogged attention to the task at hand.
Taken together, these chapters add up to a narrative of America that can seem distant today with so much of the news focused onand the deserved revisiting of the legacy of injustice in this country. A Promised Land, much like Obama’s presidency and truly his entire career, makes the case for moving the story forward. “There are those who believe that it’s time to discard the myth—that an examination of America’s past and an even cursory glance at today’s headlines show that this nation’s ideals have always been secondary to conquest and subjugation,” he writes. “I’m not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America.”
In this divided age, it’s too much to ask of Obama or anyone else to write a book that can inspire the entire country. And, indeed, A Promised Land is not a national self-help book that will pull us back from the brink. But it offers a few hints about what the former president views as the necessary challenges to tackle ahead. Gently but assuredly, Obama takes on the Republican Party, whose elected officials challenged him at every turn. He deals sharp criticism to the media outlets that inadequately challenged Trump’s lies and broader GOP deception, describing Fox News as “a network whose power and profits had been built around stoking the same racial fears and resentments that Trump now sought to exploit.”
Could Obama Have Been Great?
The memoir of the 44th president displays the self-conscious qualities that vaulted him into the White House with a claim to history—and ended up capping his achievements.Is that good enough?
It’s a fitting critique for the moment., Obama’s vice president, has won the presidential election and yet and in need of a unifying story. In recent weeks, we’ve heard from both long-time elected officials and newly elected members of Congress whose sense of sense of civics and history are lacking, to say the least. One Republican senator-elect failed to correctly and another Republican congressman-elect . Right-wing media outlets, as well as social media platforms, are elevating about the . And the central message from Trump and many Republicans who follow his cues centers on bitter grievances and division.
Biden has channeled much of Obama’s narrative, crafting a message of unity during his campaign and now in the early days of his transition. To work toward that vision, he’ll benefit from a coherent story of America—one that’s honest yet hopeful.
Fact check: Joe Biden didn't have a birthday party without masks. The video is from 2019. .
A video purporting to show Joe Biden and others celebrating his birthday while not wearing masks is actually from 2019.To mark the occasion, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted a video of herself next to Biden, leading a crowd in a chorus of "Happy Birthday.