A Promised Land Summary

A Promised Land is a 2020 memoir by Barack Obama about his political career, tracing his early life, his senatorial positions, his presidential campaign, and his first years in the White House.

  • Obama was born and raised in Hawaii. His intelligence, ambition, and passion for social change emerged in his years at Columbia and Harvard.
  • Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago before resolving to run for the state senate, the US senate, and the presidency.
  • Obama’s first years in office were defined by the immense challenges of the economic crisis and the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 773

A Promised Land, the first volume of Barack Obama’s memoir, relates Obama’s experiences from childhood through the defeat of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, primarily focusing on his political career.

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Obama’s youthful fascination with movements for social change led him to become a community organizer and then a lawyer focusing on civil rights. After marrying Michelle Robinson, a fellow lawyer, he decided to run for Illinois State Senate. He served as a state senator for eight years, growing frustrated with the political corruption he witnessed. Obama wanted to change politics on a larger scale by unifying the American people. He became a United States Senator and received constant media attention for his powers of inspiration. At the advice of several key Democratic political figures, he decided to run for president in 2008.

After an inspiring victory over Hillary Clinton at the Iowa caucuses due to grassroots organizing, Obama was defeated in the New Hampshire primary. Difficult racial issues arose during his campaign in South Carolina, but Obama ultimately won the state. Despite racial struggles and concerns over his ability to connect with working-class voters, Obama continued to win primaries on Super Tuesday and beyond. Clinton stayed in the race even as Obama’s victory looked increasingly likely, but she ultimately conceded the nomination to Obama and agreed to become part of his administration. Obama chose experienced Democratic senator Joe Biden as his running mate. His Republican opponent, John McCain, chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, which played on Obama’s perceived difficulties connecting with working-class voters to create a populist movement within the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, the financial crisis of 2007–2008 worsened, and President George W. Bush turned to both candidates for help addressing it. McCain failed to demonstrate skill in addressing economic issues, which gave Obama confidence that he was the right choice to become president during this crisis. Voters agreed, and Obama won the presidency in November 2008.

As president, Obama urgently needed to address the economic crisis. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act infused cash into the American economy, helping prevent a global financial disaster. The Obama team designed programs to relieve the housing crisis, bail out automakers, and strengthen confidence in the American financial markets. Meanwhile, on the military front, Obama arranged for a strategic withdrawal of forces from Iraq and agreed to a troop surge in Afghanistan.

Obama helped negotiate a global agreement to address the economic crisis. He gave a speech to the Muslims of the world promoting a new vision of cooperation and peace. One of the central goals of his presidency was to pass healthcare reform. He eventually succeeded, bringing about the Affordable Care Act. The process required a great deal of bargaining with fellow Democrats and was met with...

(The entire section contains 773 words.)

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