Books,  Excerpts

Excerpts from “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama

Don’t think there is any explanation needed why I started reading this book; a couple of days after the release of the book, when I posted on Twitter about starting to read, a student of mine commented [paraphrased], “was expecting you to read this book, and looking forward for the summary blog” 😛 Even though I finished the book middle of Jan, got around to write the blog now! This is definitely one of the best books I have read! Was so gripping and engaging.

[Page 14] all those misfits who took the scraps that others overlooked or discarded and made beauty no one had seen before.

[15] But if my own impact on Chicago was small, the city changed the arc of my life.

[19] Enthusiasm makes up for a host of deficiencies, I tell my daughters — and at least that was true for me at Harvard.

[30] It confirmed, too, what I already knew about myself: that whatever preferences I had for fair play, I didn’t like to lose.

[37] In other words, following my ill-fated run for Congress, I experienced a certain letting go — if not of my desire to make a difference in the world, then at least of the insistence that it had to be done on a large stage.

[49] And I’d drive on to the next town knowing that the story I was telling was true; convinced that this campaign was no longer about me and that I had become a mere conduit through which people might recognize the value of their own stories, their own worth, and share them with one another.

[55] To be a workhorse, not a showhorse–that was my goal.

[67] Better to hold off, I told myself. Pay dues, collect chits, wait my turn.

[69] By Teddy

[83] When asked a question, I tended to offer circuitous and ponderous answers, my mind instinctively breaking up every issue into a pile of components and subcomponents.

[125] I wasn’t running against Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or even the Republicans. I was running against the implacable weight of the past; the inertia, fatalism, and fear it produced.

[160] “Lord.” I had written, “protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.”

Written on a piece of paper from hotel stationery by Obama and pushed it deep in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a custom for the prayers.

[223] What a gift my mother-in-law was. For us, she became a living, breathing reminder of who we were and where we came from, a keeper. of values we’d once thought ordinary but had learned were more rare than we had ever imagined.

[233] “Trust me,” he [Rahm] said. “The presidency is like a new car. It starts depreciating the minute you drive it off the lot.”

[277] With increasing frequency, highly qualified candidates for top federal jobs would cite the confirmation ordeal–what it might do to their reputations, how it might affect their families — as a reason to decline a high-profile post.

[293] My emphasis on process was born of necessity. What I was quickly discovering about the presidency was that no problem that landed on my desk foreign or domestic, had a clean, 100 percent solution. If it had someone else down the chain of command would have solved it already.

[305] In that sense, my first hundred days in office revealed a basic strand of my political character. I was a reformer, conservative in temperament if not in vision. Whether I was demonstrating wisdom or weakness would be for others to judge.

[349] “You’ve been cursed with people’s high expectations,” he [Vaclav Havel, former President of Czech Republic] said, shaking my hand.

[405] As a matter of principle, I didn’t believe a president should ever publicly whine about criticism from voters–it’s what you signed up for in taking the job.



[473] hide your strength and bide your time.

[493] Getting things done meant subjecting yourself to criticism, and alternative–playing it safe, avoiding controversy, following the polls–was not only a recipe for mediocrity but a betrayal of the hopes of those citizens who’d put you in office.

[534] Keeping up morale, on the other hand, wasn’t something I could delegate. I tried to be generous in my praise, measured in my criticism. In meetings, I made a point of eliciting everyone’s views, including those of more junior staffers. Small stuff mattered–making sure it was me who brought out the cake for somebody’s birthday, for example, or taking the time to call someone’s parents for an anniversary. Sometimes, when I had a few unscheduled minutes, i’d just wander through the West Wing’s narrow halls, poling my head into offices to ask people about their families, what they were working on, and whether there was anything they thought we could be doing better.

[569] To that point in my presidency, I’d maintained a fundamental confidence that no matter how bad things got, whether with the banks, the auto companies, Greece, or Afghanistan, I could always come up with a solution through sound process and smart choices.

[589] And with each day of extra sleep, laughter, and uninterrupted time with those I loved, I could feel my energy returning, my confidence restored.

Currently reading Models of My Life: The Remarkable Autobiography of the Nobel Prize Winning Social Scientist and Father of Artificial Intelligence by Prof. Herbert A Simon. Stay tuned!

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Professor @ IIIT Hyderabad