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No-drama Obama delivers A Promised Land

16 November 2020

The much-anticipated first volume of Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs will be released on Tuesday 17th November 2020. His publishers, Penguin Random House, who reportedly secured memoirs for both Barack and Michelle Obama for a cool $65m, have ordered an unprecedented 3 million copies in the first print to meet the expected demand.

Barack and Michelle Obama
Barack and Michelle Obama. Photo credit: Barack Obama instagram handle

The power couple have already demonstrated that their appeal translates into sales. Michelle Obama’s Becoming sold 1.5m copies in the first week and sales exceeded 11.5m in the first year. Such is the global appeal of the 44th President of the United States that A Promised Land will be published in 25 languages including Arabic and Chinese.

Barack Obama’s story is such an inspiration for anyone who wants to lead. Some of his well-known qualities include:


David Axelrod coined the phrase “no-drama Obama” during the 2008 election campaign that Obama won. The lack of drama underpinned the culture of the Obama campaign team was in sharp contrast to the ego-driven infighting in the Clinton camp.

Obama managed to remain as cool as a cucumber throughout his presidency. He was not known to panic or get upset. He certainly didn’t vent his frustrations on Twitter like his successor does.

However, there is a flip side to this quality. Obama was often criticised for being too laid-back during his time in office and the image of his feet on the Resolute desk confirmed that you can take the man out of Hawaii, but you cannot take Hawaii out of the man. Maureen Dowd, who was normally supportive of the President, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in December 2009 called As the nation’s pulse races, Obama can’t seem to find his.


 Self-discipline is one of the qualities that has contributed to Obama’s tremendous success. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, identified two virtues required of political leaders: temperance (i.e., moderation, self-restraint) and self-discipline.

Obama was focused and deliberate in his actions, at the risk of being labelled boring. He was also committed to working out every day even when he held the most stressful job in the world. No excuses. This is what made him a legend.


Obama relied on a small, inner circle from Chicago and never let the Washington Establishment get close. While this cost him much needed political capital to get things done on the Hill, Obama knew who he could trust and did not surround himself with the kind of flaky allies who today are dropping Donald Trump faster than Nevada can count votes.

It is this inner circle that often give us rare insights into Obama’s world. Valerie Jarrett, summed up Obama’s extraordinary talent as: “What I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents. . .  He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

 Will A Promised Land deliver anything new?

The challenge Obama faces is that the world already feels as if they know everything there is to know. Obama told the emotional story of his upbringing and search for identity in Dreams from my father (1995) and laid out his vision for “a different brand of politics” in The Audacity of hope (2006). His fans and critics have also churned out books from How to think like Obama by Daniel Smith to The worst president in history by Matt Margolis.

My hope is that Obama uses A Promised Land to silence the critics and settle the endless debates between his fans and foes:

  • Was the political rookie ready to be POTUS? Obama had served in the Illinois Senate for seven years until he became a US Senator four years before he was sworn in. Trump on the other hand had zero political experience. Time will tell what is the correct path to take to the highest office
  • What did he make of the ‘wimps in DC’ moniker? The New York Times famously asked: Is Obama a wimp or warrior?
  • Is he indecisive or just extra careful in his thinking?
  • Did Obamacare deliver as intended?
  • Did he do enough for the African American community? There have been accusations that he abandoned his own community, who have endured centuries of being marginalised
  • Did he do enough for Africa? We had such high hopes
  • If he had to do it all again, what would he change? Is Obama too proud to admit where he went wrong? Time will tell.

A Promised Land is available from Amazon for $27 (RRP: $45) and leading bookstores around the world. Look out for a review in December.

© 2020 Muloongo Muchelemba. All Rights Reserved