It is not always politics even if you are at the helm of one of the most influential nations in the domain of international politics. For Barack Obama, the former President of United States of America, it was much more and beyond. His latest memoir, A Promised Land, is undoubtedly a collector’s delight for those who wish to understand or get a glimpse of the personal side of this tall personality, who made the entire world look at American polity differently.
White House memories
Walking back to White House from Oval Office (West Colonnade) in the late evening, Obama would look towards the Washington Monument piercing the black sky in the distance, occasionally catching sight of the moon and stars above it, or the twinkling of a passing jet. “I’d breathe air laced with the scent of soil and grass and pollen, and listen to the wind or the pattern of rain,” reveals Obama.
Through high school, Obama and his friends did not discuss much beyond sports, girls, music, and plans for getting loaded. Three of them — Bobby Titcomb, Greg Orme, and Mike Ramos — are some of his closest friends. To this day, he can laugh for hours over stories of their misspent youth. Obama writes: “That guy? They must have said to themselves. How the hell did that happen? (He becomes the US President). Moreover, if my friends had ever asked me directly, I am not sure I would have had a good answer.”
Refuge in books
The reading habit was his mother’s doing, instilled early during his childhood — her go-to move anytime resulted into Obama complaining of boredom, or when she couldn’t afford to send him to the international school in Indonesia, or when he had to accompany her to the office because she didn’t have a babysitter.“Go read a book,” she would say. “Then come back and tell me something you learnt.”
‘No politics,’ please
With few exceptions, everything Obama observed about politicians seemed dubious: The blow-dried hair, the wolfish grins, the bromides and self-peddling on TV while behind closed doors they curried the favour of corporations and other moneyed interests. He writes, “They were actors in a rigged game, I decided, and I wanted no part of it.”
For Obama there were useful lessons to draw from the first campaign on his way to the State Senate. “I learned to respect the nuts and bolts of politics, the attention to detail required, the daily grind that might prove the difference between winning and losing. It confirmed, too, what I already knew about myself: that whatever preferences I had for fair play, I did not like to lose,” he writes.
The ‘better half’
Michelle Lavaughn Robinson was tall, beautiful, funny, outgoing, generous, and wickedly smart — and he was smitten the second he saw her. Assigned by the firm to look out for him, to make sure Obama knew where the office photocopier was, and that he generally felt welcome. That also meant they got an opportunity to go out for lunches together, which allowed them to sit and talk — at first about their jobs, and eventually about everything else. “I imagined her just before we met, very much the young professional, tailored and crisp, focused on her career and doing things the way they’re supposed to be done, with no time for nonsense. Then, this strange guy from Hawaii with a scruffy wardrobe and crazy dreams wanders into her life. That was part of my appeal, she would tell me, how different I was from the guys she’d grown up with, the men she had dated,” Obama mentions in this memoir.
While reading A Promised Land keep politics aside and enjoy every bit of it including some wonderful glimpses of valuable moments through photographs at the end of the book.
Book: A Promised Land
Author: Barack Obama
Publisher: Penguin Random House