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Barack Obama is arguably the most dynamic political figure to grace the American stage since John F. Kennedy. His meteoric rise from promise to power has stunned even the cynics and inspired a legion of devout followers.   For anyone who wants to know more about the man, David Mendell's Obama is essential reading. Mendell, who covered Obama for the Chicago Tribune, had Barack Obama is arguably the most dynamic political figure to grace the American stage since John F. Kennedy. His meteoric rise from promise to power has stunned even the cynics and inspired a legion of devout followers.   For anyone who wants to know more about the man, David Mendell's Obama is essential reading. Mendell, who covered Obama for the Chicago Tribune, had far-reaching access to the Chicago politician as Obama climbed the ladder to the White House, the details of which he shares in this compelling biography. Positioning Obama as the savior of a fumbling Democratic party, Mendell reveals how Obama conquered Illinois politics and paved the way brick by brick for a galvanizing, historic presidential run.   With a new afterword by the author, which includes a fresh perspective on Barack Obama following his two historic terms as the first African-American president, and with exclusive interviews with family members and top advisers, and details on Obama's voting record, David Mendell offers a complete, complex, and revealing portrait. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in American politics in general and President Barack Obama in particular.


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Barack Obama is arguably the most dynamic political figure to grace the American stage since John F. Kennedy. His meteoric rise from promise to power has stunned even the cynics and inspired a legion of devout followers.   For anyone who wants to know more about the man, David Mendell's Obama is essential reading. Mendell, who covered Obama for the Chicago Tribune, had Barack Obama is arguably the most dynamic political figure to grace the American stage since John F. Kennedy. His meteoric rise from promise to power has stunned even the cynics and inspired a legion of devout followers.   For anyone who wants to know more about the man, David Mendell's Obama is essential reading. Mendell, who covered Obama for the Chicago Tribune, had far-reaching access to the Chicago politician as Obama climbed the ladder to the White House, the details of which he shares in this compelling biography. Positioning Obama as the savior of a fumbling Democratic party, Mendell reveals how Obama conquered Illinois politics and paved the way brick by brick for a galvanizing, historic presidential run.   With a new afterword by the author, which includes a fresh perspective on Barack Obama following his two historic terms as the first African-American president, and with exclusive interviews with family members and top advisers, and details on Obama's voting record, David Mendell offers a complete, complex, and revealing portrait. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in American politics in general and President Barack Obama in particular.

30 review for Obama: From Promise to Power

  1. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Very interesting. I went into the book with a jaded perspective of the man, but I came out of it with a very optimistic feeling about the future.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Saroj

    A well written book. The author is closely associated with Obama and knows every detail about him. I recommend everyone to read this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    This is a well written book by a journalist who covered Obama since his early run for US senate. I found the book accurate and impartially well written on what it took for an idealist Obama to become the power as President he is today. From Mendell's portrayal of Obama, he seems to be an idealist introverts who is more interested in his idealistic vision of what the country could be and the policies needed to be enacted to fulfill that vision than the showmanship of politics. But, what separates This is a well written book by a journalist who covered Obama since his early run for US senate. I found the book accurate and impartially well written on what it took for an idealist Obama to become the power as President he is today. From Mendell's portrayal of Obama, he seems to be an idealist introverts who is more interested in his idealistic vision of what the country could be and the policies needed to be enacted to fulfill that vision than the showmanship of politics. But, what separates him from other introverts is his sweeping oratorical skills and commanding presence when he speaks about ideas and policy he truly cares about. I think with those skills plus the media magnification of those skills which was crafted by Axlerod, he is a magnificent campaigner but average politicians because he has disdain for political showmanship for its own sake ( a trait he shares with W). But I think his innate ambition that keeps him driving forward, his years in the US Senate was noncontroversial. At that he was low key liberal in that he used his oratorical gifts to highlight the common goals that people had instead of specific policy requirement that can divide people. In this new role he saw himself as, he was the perfect race bridge-builder who seeks the betterment of all Americans instead of favoring one race over the other. What strikes me so far about Obama's rise to power is that it was not planned. He innately possess idealism and ambition but by following his immediate need here in now and just taking the opportunities when it presented itself to him, he eventually attained power. For example, his desire to connect with his father's past and what it means to be African-American led to leaving his plush job NYC and go to Chicago to work as a community organizer. From that position, he saw the futility of being community organizer to enact change and it was there that he learned the value of pragmatism in tempering his innate idealism. With the death of Chicagoan mayor Washington and the lack of movement as a community organizer, he finally went to Harvard law school and excel in order to come back to Chicago and become its mayor to help the South-side Black community. While in Harvard he excelled so well that he became the President of Harvard Law Review, in that capacity he was able to strike a balance between the bitter contentiousness of Law Review politics that would lay the ground work for his political career. I think the best place in which this is showcased is his Health care summit that was seen live on TV between the party leaders in Congress and himself. And despite the the unanimous vote against the health care bill by republicans, there is significant Republican ideas within the bill itself. Furthermore, despite the fact that he generally cares for the welfare of the Black population, his role as President of the Law Review led him to be more serious about his multi-cultural role in placing people in editorial position based on merit rather than the color of his skin. Again one can see this in the way he governs askewing racial politics in favor of governing the country as a whole with a whole range of advisors. It is comforting to see that given Obama's background in identifying with the African-American population and the fact that he went back to Chicago to help those black people have a better life, that when his presidency is finished, he will probably serve the African-American community and hopefully include all disadvantage minorities too. My vision for his post-presidency work would becoming a community organizer in terms of motivating the Black leaders in the US and perhaps Hispanic and Native American leaders as well in providing money as well as direct guidance to youngsters who are socio-economically at risk at being "gangsters" or drug addicts. In his post-presidency, I think in terms of helping the US this is the greatest service he can do to directly give hope to disadvantage minority youths by empowering them to have successful lives. It strikes me that Obama is his mother's son in terms of his basic characteristics (the idealism, wanderlust, as well as holistic world-view that we are all human beings) but he has his father's ambition in creating the perfect world on earth. He is actually like W in this way in that they seem to be both idealist in their core and really want to help the American people have a better life. I think where they differ though is whereas W derives his government and good works through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Obama is really as secular humanist at heart in believing that man can change his fate here and now (with governments help of course) and since Christianity just happens to have teaching in line with his belief then he too is a Christian. It also strikes me that Obama started out with an unformed idealism of changing society for the better that progressed to political ambition later on in his life. But, I still think he is a politician with a sense of purpose in wanting to create a better world. Unlike old black politicians (Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton), he inherently understands the need for multi-cultural community building in order to make the US and thus black population progress. Perhaps this difference is due to the fact that Obama is a 3rd culture child and lived in multi-cultural Hawaii so he sees different people with different religions and different cultural heritage just trying to get along and live with each other and thus reaffirms his belief that humans are humans everywhere. Living in this multi cultural background where acceptance of each others external differences was the norm, perhaps allowed him to escape the worst of the racial identity politics as well as prejudice that was so prevalent in that time period. So instead of ending up an "angry black man" that ended up in jail and homeless like his high school friend "Ray", he became a multi-cultural savior in a land where the significance of race as a barrier to success diminishes with each passing day. Also, I think the way his mother raised him in telling him that he is an exceptional human being also played a role in his positive self-esteem in that he started looking at his uniqueness as a positive instead of a negative. I also felt this uniqueness in that despite the fact I always read slowly, I was told that I was smart so naturally I excelled in school. So even though, I finally hit a wall in medical school in which I could no longer rely on my "smartness", I still found a way to succeed because I knew that I was "smart". I think Obama probably had a similar upbringing in that his mother told him that he is unique and being black made him exceptional so he began to think that he was exceptional. I think that once you program your kids minds one way they stay that way for the rest of their adult life. Obama's lose to Rush in the race for South-side black congressional district was probably a positive for him in the long run because if he won that district it would have been impossible to take the mantle as multi-cultural bridge builder in his presidency bid. The lose also taught him the value of patience in politics and the unpredictability of politics in having both the external environment with ones skills and ambition in deciding the win or lose of the outcome. The thing that Obama has over other introverted candidates who are also as idealistic as he is, is that, his confidence in his extemporaneous speaking abilities and his ability to persuade others to his own view points and ideas. It is interesting though that again and again, it seems, despite his ambition and considerable oratory skills, Obama seems to be not a natural politician in that he does not like to ingratiate himself and play the political game for the sake of the game. This can be seen today in his seeming inability to help congressional democrats in winning their districts despite winning significant legislative victories in his health care and financial reform packages. It seems that Obama has an innate disdain for retail politics if it is not tied to his larger policy agenda. This makes for an interesting quandary in that when he passes a bill you know it is largely from his heart and compromises he does is just because he wants the bill to pass but at the same time one looses political capital when one does not connect with the voters and sell it to others. Federal Politics, in general, seems to be a divisive affair in that even though Bush and Obama came into office with significant promise to work across the isle from their state experiences, it seems nationally the bipartisan effort and good will does not translate. One can only surmise that the other party just obstructs for obstructions sake instead of genuinely trying to reach out across the isle and work with the opposition party. And it seems that American politics does not lend itself to long term strategic policy creation because strategic policy creation is really about prevention of catastrophe from happening. Americans tend to prefer Presidents/Congress to fix things that is visibly wrong right now over things that is preventive in nature. For example, even though Obama scored legislative victories in health care and finance reform, his approval rating is down due to people seeing those reforms as a waste of money. Also, Americans are angry about the bank bailout although it is widely believed that inaction would have destroyed the monetary system of the US. But, here again the electorate does not seem to reward politicians for preventing a catastrophe but instead responding to catastrophe ones it happens. Also, Bushes major victory is the fact that terrorist never again were able to strike in the US but since it was preventive in nature, no one gives him credit for it. Instead people concentrate on his failure of killing Osama bin Laden and the folly that was Iraq. American prefer action to inaction and preventive measures even though preventive measures might be more effective than action measures. Obama constituency seems to be Black people, college educated people, younger voters set. He has trouble connecting with working class people. But the charge that he was not black enough actually worked in his favor in the general presidential election by showcasing that he was not partisan to the black cause. It seems that all successful aspiring politicians have a political handler that does the "dirty" political games that wins elections. Bush sr had Atwater, Clinton had Carville, W had Rove, and Obama has Axlerod and Gibbs. The best handlers not only have an innate feel for the political game but also are great at accentuating the candidates positive aspects. I think this is what Axlerod did for Obama, he used his innate charisma and magnified it greatly for effect on TV. Mendell portrays Obama as a self-absorbed idealist (the type that populate collegiate coffee shops with their self-important theories). He describe that while covering Obama papers described him as having that "IT". But, I think that "IT" is just an infectious smile of being happy in the here and now which everyone strives too and everyone is attracted to the person that possesses "IT". Obama can be overly cerebral policy sort of way. Unlike Clinton, he seems to have a difficult time switching from his policy hat to his politics hat. This again can be seen in his failure to sell his congressional policy victories politically to the public. It seems once in office, he disregards how to play politics. Whereas policy is all cerebral in which one tries to match ones vision of a better tomorrow with the realities of today, politics seems to be all about emotional connection to your audience and connecting your values with theirs. It seems that Obama initial obscurity in the Democratic primary for Senate turned out to his advantage because in his relative obscurity he could sharpen his stump speech for the end of the race when your TV adds air. So when people see you for the first time, your stump speech is sharpened to the point to where you are in the "zone" Ultimately, I see Obama meteoric rise from obscurity to his presidential rise as media driven via excellent media crafting by Axelrod and Gibbs. But ironically Obama suffers the consequences of this seemingly good fortune by the lack of control that he has over his campaign and his precious private time. Being an introvert by nature, Obama likes to have time alone to recharge and in constantly running for office and being the media darling, he loses that time to himself. I think in the end this is what makes him have a pissy attitude because of the constant media glare wherever he went. Also when the cameras are on, a person can seem disengenious by virtue of being constantly aware that you are filmed wherever you go. From 2004 on after his speech in the Democratic convention, Obama seems to have been drafted first by the media and then by people who bought the media message of hope into the Presidency. So Obama as Presidential candidate was really drafted by the wave of political support that he could not ignore because of his innate ambition for great things. But as we have seen the media can be a double edge sword because what can make you can also unmake you so fast. I have no doubt that because of the speed of media and because it thrives on conflict for ratings that it is the single most polarizing entity in the US. The analysis of every single word especially taken out of context can inflame the population to such a degree that people and thus politicians become polarized in their message. It is comforting to note that Obama consults Michelle in all his major decisions that she is his rock of support. That whatever he does she supports but only if he makes her equal partner in that effort. But in his run for US Senate it seems that Obama had an easy run that were filled with his opponents imploding among themselves as well as attacking each other and leaving Obama out of their attacks.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edgar

    A man set on making history he clearly proves Steve Jobs quote "Heres to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. Theyre not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you cant do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. A man set on making history he clearly proves Steve Jobs quote "“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” --Steve Jobs

  5. 5 out of 5

    May Ling

    Summary: A great person to find all sorts of wisdom from. This is about a person that has that "it" factor. That happens, I think, from birth. Review will be posted soon at IGTV. To see it, visit my Instagram at: WhereIsMayLing I know people will say that biography is always a retelling and therefore a fraction of the truth. Does it matter? This story is inspirational and gives tons of nuggets in the way that you must overcome and stay true to your vision. The problem with today's campaigns is Summary: A great person to find all sorts of wisdom from. This is about a person that has that "it" factor. That happens, I think, from birth. Review will be posted soon at IGTV. To see it, visit my Instagram at: WhereIsMayLing I know people will say that biography is always a retelling and therefore a fraction of the truth. Does it matter? This story is inspirational and gives tons of nuggets in the way that you must overcome and stay true to your vision. The problem with today's campaigns is they are all about trying to say what others can't do. This is more a story of saying what humanity can achieve. So much wisdom in leadership to be learned. p 5 - And he seemed to be offering himself as the very vision of what America should be -- a place where race, class, and cultural differences mix together to make a republic whole, not to divide it. The idea of his guiding light, which was to make the world better than you came into it. p. 39 - The way they talk of Obama's father. Wow. So relatable if you're an immigrant of a certain age. Now the world is more uniform, but in the 70s- 90s, not so much. "... here is a guy who sort of leapfrogged from the 18th century to the 20th in just a few years. He went from being a goat herder in a small village in Africa to getting a scholarship to the Univ of Hawaii to going to Harvard..." p. 46 - This race confusion thing was just never acknowledged. It must take so much inner courage to just choose to see the world as loving and legitimately just confused vs. something more negative. Wow. But that has to be the right way to do it. Compassion vs. defensive. p. 48 - He still holds it against his teacher for benching him. The way I'm reading it though is the injustice that someone who is so powerful just decides to lay into someone who is just not. It's so wrong. p. 57 - He captured his purpose at Occidental and came into himself as a nerd. p. 59 - He read everything and expanded his mind. p. 68 - How to get that power. He talks about trying to figure out an issue people cared about. That led to action. Collective action breeds power. Enough of those actions together results in success. Powerful. Obama found that issues-action-power group in the black churches of S. side of Chicago. p. 74 - Obama takes on the mantle of Dr. King. p. 85 - He was crushing it at Harvard. p. 94 - Never thought about long-distance relationships requiring a certain maturity. p. 98 - How real MO kept it in interviews vs. other scripted first ladies. p. 129 - The black community did not at first embrace him. He picked a-side (at the time) and that's the side he chose though and he worked it until he won his followers over. p. 151 - The conversation he had with MO on his ability to win the race... but he needed a strong support (MO is so awesome). He promised he would drop out of it if he lost. Wow. p.175 - The speech against the war. I totally forgot.. wow. Yeah. that was cool. p. 201 - This is who he admires: Ghandi, MLK, and Lincoln. "men who were able to bring about extraordinary change and place themselves in a difficult historical moment and be a moral center." p. 222 - "One of Obama's strengths is that he rarely busies his mind with matters that seem trivial to him" as related to some of the ways that politicians might come at each other. p. 219 - "Barack's "IT" factor came to the fore at the strangest moments. And just as his natural talents often bred jealousy among his colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly, his charismatic appeal drew resentment from other campaigns, particularly supports of the stoic Dan Hynes and the artless Blair Hull. " This is likely deeper than people realize. This is what he had to overcome. When you're "it" you're going to have haters. And those haters increasingly become unexpected. How you behave and navigate is everything as to whether or not you can next level that. Wow. p. 329 - Elegant solution to take the HIV test and do what you believe despite that it might not be popular with specific people. Do right and it will work out. p. 346 - His ability to use his Kenyan roots to help him out with world politics. p. 384 - I forgot about the whole Rezko incident.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian Wilson

    This book only covers up until Obama started running for the US presidency, but it is still a great book. The discussion of Obamas parallels with his father are illuminating. The journalistic perspective appears objective, eschewing hero worship. Instead, it analyzes the hero workshop of others. I listened to the audiobook, and the reader did great. His Obama impersonation voice was pretty good. The extended metaphor about LeBron James was surprisingly well done, and didnt feel chintzy almost This book only covers up until Obama started running for the US presidency, but it is still a great book. The discussion of Obama’s parallels with his father are illuminating. The journalistic perspective appears objective, eschewing hero worship. Instead, it analyzes the hero workshop of others. I listened to the audiobook, and the reader did great. His Obama impersonation voice was pretty good. The extended metaphor about LeBron James was surprisingly well done, and didn’t feel chintzy almost literally ending the book. This book was at its weakest when it was a travelogue of Obama’s African “codel” congressional delegation trip.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Wilson

    This book proves a fascinating read, journeying with David Mendell as he chronicles Barack Obama's ascendancy to U.S. Senator and, ultimately, his candidacy for President. Mendell captures the way how Obama's campaign for Senator was finely-tuned and benefitted largely by not making mistakes as his competitors were tripping themselves up. There is some frankness, although there is not nearly as much of Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett as I might have hoped. There is, however, quite a bit of This book proves a fascinating read, journeying with David Mendell as he chronicles Barack Obama's ascendancy to U.S. Senator and, ultimately, his candidacy for President. Mendell captures the way how Obama's campaign for Senator was finely-tuned and benefitted largely by not making mistakes as his competitors were tripping themselves up. There is some frankness, although there is not nearly as much of Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett as I might have hoped. There is, however, quite a bit of David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs. I think perhaps too much of the second half of the book is dedicated to Obama's rock-star media attention, yet that is also the key thing to his story. Obama shattered previous attempts by others to gain substantive popular appeal, symbolized best here by Mendell's aacount of Obama's 2006 trip to Africa. Any Obama fan or those interested in how campaigns are shaped should read this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Rae

    Absolutely fascinating. David Mendell is a gifted writer and offers a unique perspective; he was one of few journalists to cover Obama when he was relatively unknown. I couldn't put the book down and ate up all the details about the president's path to the White House via Chicago politics and a very interesting 'African Adventure' alongside hundreds of journalists. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about Barack Obama. I read it after Dreams From My Father and suggest Absolutely fascinating. David Mendell is a gifted writer and offers a unique perspective; he was one of few journalists to cover Obama when he was relatively unknown. I couldn't put the book down and ate up all the details about the president's path to the White House via Chicago politics and a very interesting 'African Adventure' alongside hundreds of journalists. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about Barack Obama. I read it after Dreams From My Father and suggest reading both of them. The parallels between the autobiography and biography are interesting and prove how self-aware Obama really is.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The author, David Mendell, reported on Barack's first Illinois state senate campaign for the Chicago Tribune. His observations and comments on Obama's 8 year journey in politics is interesting and informative. I was blown away by Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. I can see now, that the many hours Obama spent on the campaign trail helped him develop the themes and the delivery he used so effectively. The book ends at the declaration of his campaign for President. I want to read The author, David Mendell, reported on Barack's first Illinois state senate campaign for the Chicago Tribune. His observations and comments on Obama's 8 year journey in politics is interesting and informative. I was blown away by Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. I can see now, that the many hours Obama spent on the campaign trail helped him develop the themes and the delivery he used so effectively. The book ends at the declaration of his campaign for President. I want to read the sequel!

  10. 5 out of 5

    William Cunion

    Biography of Barack Obama, focusing mainly on his political rise from the Illinois state legislature through the US Senate, though it does provide some background pertaining to his formative years, concluding with his 2007 announcement that he would seek the presidency in 2008. The author is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who has covered Obama for years. Clearly, he likes and admires Obama, but he is more critical than most, pointing out that Obama is impatient and prickly. A little longer Biography of Barack Obama, focusing mainly on his political rise from the Illinois state legislature through the US Senate, though it does provide some background pertaining to his formative years, concluding with his 2007 announcement that he would seek the presidency in 2008. The author is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who has covered Obama for years. Clearly, he likes and admires Obama, but he is more critical than most, pointing out that Obama is impatient and prickly. A little longer than it needs to be, but probably among the best Obama biographies currently available.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    A biography covering his political life written by a journalist who covered his congressional campaign in Illinois. I wouldn't really consider the book to be pro or anti Obama - it describes the way his strengths have played out in politics and it does not ignore his weaknesses. After reading the book I feel like I now have a historical and political context inside which the "magic" of his persona and his rhetoric can be evaluated. Like any other candidate - like him or hate him, one should at A biography covering his political life written by a journalist who covered his congressional campaign in Illinois. I wouldn't really consider the book to be pro or anti Obama - it describes the way his strengths have played out in politics and it does not ignore his weaknesses. After reading the book I feel like I now have a historical and political context inside which the "magic" of his persona and his rhetoric can be evaluated. Like any other candidate - like him or hate him, one should at least attempt to be informed about him.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    If all biographies were written like this, I'd read more of them. Too many F words, but a fascinating look into Obama's political life starting with his run for the Illinois Senate. The author is a writer for the Chicago Tribune and I thought he was pretty fair and unbiased. After reading this book, I believe Obama is a good man and remarkably honest for a politician. If he weren't so fond of big government, I would have voted for him. I have no faith in his policies, but it seems like his If all biographies were written like this, I'd read more of them. Too many F words, but a fascinating look into Obama's political life starting with his run for the Illinois Senate. The author is a writer for the Chicago Tribune and I thought he was pretty fair and unbiased. After reading this book, I believe Obama is a good man and remarkably honest for a politician. If he weren't so fond of big government, I would have voted for him. I have no faith in his policies, but it seems like his motives are good.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Obama is an extremely interesting person with a long history of activism. The writer provided a bit more detail than I would have liked. I enjoyed the details about Obama but did not need to learn the minutia about everyone else in his life as well as learning that the writer likes chicken sandwhiches. :)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shams Toor

    On my trip to Tioman Island during April 2008, the book was a good entertainment. It inspired me to write my own Dad's biography - it remains incomplete and I am awaiting a chance when I spend some long months with my dad to complete it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    An interesting read, a great source for any one looking to learn more about the rise of one of the most important politicians in a generation. The book has several problems, most of them Mendell's. Mendell could be a better writer; he often over writes, something that a more mature writer would not feel the need to do, a red pen and a reread of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" would do him good. Mendell also has a tendency to focus too much on the journalism of the story, getting An interesting read, a great source for any one looking to learn more about the rise of one of the most important politicians in a generation. The book has several problems, most of them Mendell's. Mendell could be a better writer; he often over writes, something that a more mature writer would not feel the need to do, a red pen and a reread of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" would do him good. Mendell also has a tendency to focus too much on the journalism of the story, getting away from the story of Obama. He spends a page or two wondering (wandering?) about whether or not he was right to pen a line about one of Obama's opponents' wives. That vignette, while interesting, distracted from Obama, which is what the book is about. Mendell often does this, talking about his experience as a journalist covering Obama, rather than Obama's life. Finally, I did not appreciate Mendell's pearl-clutching tendencies, particularly in the section about the trip to Africa. In this section, he comes off like a rube on his first trip out of the country. Prostitutes in the airport (my, oh, my), a troubling bus journey on a jalopy. These are the kinds of things that college students blog about as they track their journey for their family, but they are not really the subject worthy of a presidential biography, since they have nothing to do with Obama. Again, if Mendell was able to tame his tendency to write about his tendency as a journalist, rather than the subject at hand, he could eliminate this problem.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    The author lead a thorough description of Obama's journey to becoming a presidential candidate, but I thought Obama was a much better writer. I'd definitely recommend Dreams of My Father and Audacity of Hope over this one.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Geni

    Great account of his political career before Presidency. The viewpoint of the author was interesting at some points as he is not a person of color but overall great read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy Roebuck

    Well, this was mean-spirited.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Bobbitt

    While enjoyable, Mendell seems to not have much of a point with this book that Obama's memoirs would not have given me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eula Muckleroy

    It was interesting to hear about his history and some of his struggles. I think the most interesting parts were the telling parts of his character and how he presents himself.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hasan

    I read this book 11 years after it was originally written. At the time it was written, Barack Obama had just announced his candidacy for the presidency. The book is largely unsure of the kind of book it wants to be. It includes a lot of unnecessary biographical information about Obama, which has been covered more extensively by other authors including Obama. Additionally speaking, it makes a set of assertions about Obama's character, treatment of the press and potential struggle to deal with I read this book 11 years after it was originally written. At the time it was written, Barack Obama had just announced his candidacy for the presidency. The book is largely unsure of the kind of book it wants to be. It includes a lot of unnecessary biographical information about Obama, which has been covered more extensively by other authors including Obama. Additionally speaking, it makes a set of assertions about Obama's character, treatment of the press and potential struggle to deal with Republicans in Washington in comparison to Republicans in Springfield, IL. That being said, the interview with his grandmother in Honolulu was fantastic, the lead up to and the US Senate race was terrific and his trip abroad make this a pretty good book to have read prior to his presidency.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Rush

    In 2004 at the Democratic convention, a young African-American man stepped on-stage to give a speech. At the time, he held no national office. He was just seen as an up-and-comer. As his speech flowed, viewers set in rapt attention, certain that they were witnessing something transformative. He went through his own unique heritage, informing all that though his genealogy was unusual, it was really within a long American tradition. As soon as Barack Obama finished that speech, there was a In 2004 at the Democratic convention, a young African-American man stepped on-stage to give a speech. At the time, he held no national office. He was just seen as an up-and-comer. As his speech flowed, viewers set in rapt attention, certain that they were witnessing something transformative. He went through his own unique heritage, informing all that though his genealogy was unusual, it was really within a long American tradition. As soon as Barack Obama finished that speech, there was a national buzz about a potential Presidential run for him in the very near future. Somewhere along the line, in a joke with a reporter, Obama made compared himself to the basketball player LeBron James, alluding to LeBron's having left the safe confines of high school basketball to immediately do well within the professional ranks. There was a hint that Obama would succeed in the same manner within the political world. This book goes back through all of Obama's history, interviewing different people along the way to give us a better understanding of who he is. There were conversations with people he knew at school, with one young lady pointing out that she was impressed in high school at a poem that Barack had written. Apparently, the poem was quite “deep,” foreshadowing the cosmopolitan, keen intellect that was to come. There was the high school basketball coach who had words with Obama that seemed to have negative feelings still lingering within both men many years later. There was the Black friend who always philosophized about race, who was now living as a homeless person on the streets of Los Angeles. The list goes on and on, but what one gathers from this book is that Barack Obama has held a life-long ambition to exceed, that he has always been known as an intelligent person, and many who were around him knew that he would always do something special. The author, in trying to figure out Obama's seeming coolness, his ability to remain calm in all storms, wanted to get to the bottom of that. When this was mentioned to Michelle, she simply told the author that to truly understand that aspect of Barack, it was necessary that he visit and spend time in Barack's native Hawaii. Michelle is convinced that Barack's natural patience was imbibed in the atmosphere of Hawaii, as if it was just in the air. Overall, this book is a good read for anyone trying to get a better understanding of our President. It is well-written by a guy simply trying to give us more insight. For all of those who are Barack Obama fans, there is another book that can add to your store of information about him that complements this one. In Thomas D. Rush's “Reality's Pen: Reflections On Family, History & Culture,” you will find a 1989 account of two private conversations between Rush and Obama. In those conversations, Barack reflects on what he envisions in his romantic future, long before he met Michelle. The account is special, in part, because it contains substance that only Rush and Obama heard. It is also special because the comments were made before Obama became famous between he and another guy who were just normal, everyday guys. The interaction is detailed on page 95 of Rush's book in a piece called “You Never Know Who God Wants You To Meet.” The Obama story is just one of the many rich stories from the book. Together, these two books allow the reader to get a better grasp upon our President.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Mendell is a long-time political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, and has been covering Obama since he first ran for the Illinois State Senate. Before I tell you what I cleaned from the book, I'm going to give a quote from Mendell: "What the public has yet to see clearly is his hidden side: his imperious, mercurial, self-righteous and sometimes prickly nature, each quality exacerbated by the enormous career pressures he has inflicted upon himself. He can be cold and short with reporters who he Mendell is a long-time political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, and has been covering Obama since he first ran for the Illinois State Senate. Before I tell you what I cleaned from the book, I'm going to give a quote from Mendell: "What the public has yet to see clearly is his hidden side: his imperious, mercurial, self-righteous and sometimes prickly nature, each quality exacerbated by the enormous career pressures he has inflicted upon himself. He can be cold and short with reporters who he believes have given him unfair coverage. He is an extraordinarily ambitious, competitive man with ... a career reach that seems to have no bounds. He is, in fact, a many of raw ambition so powerful that even his is still coming to terms with its full force." Beyond Mendell's observations about Obama itself, are his observations about Obama's luck, for the most part, in two ways: his political timing (except for challenging Bobby Rush) and his political handlers, above all David Axelrod. Beyond that, here's some specific takes from Mendell: First, Obama's sometime lack of specificity on policy issues is nothing new. Second, Obama's attendance at a Chicago antiwar rally, according to Mendell, while it had a degree of idealism behind it, also had a degree of political calculation involved. Third, Obama did pass some bills in his last term in the Illinois Senate to bolster his U.S. Senate campaign. Specifically, despite his strong stance on gun controls, he sponsored a bill to let retired cops have concealed carry. Why? To get the endorsement of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, which he did. Add it all up, and I see a Barack Obama of dichotomy. From his family background, international experiences and more, a person of more idealism than many politicians, even with some tempering. At the same time, as Mendell describes, he's a politician who can fight tough, and will. The dichotomy? The two sides don't seem to converse with each other a lot, at least in Mendell's observation, which I think exacerbates the thin-skinnedness. Finally, if you're going to compare Obama to a Kennedy, it's Bobby, not Jack. The image of Bobby's 1968 trip to South Africa turned on the light bulb for me. Same amount of Senate experience at the time of campaigning for president. Same dichotomous mix, or non-mixing, of idealism and bare-knuckle politics. Same drivenness -- Bobby had that same type of charismatic energy in a way Jack didn't.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rafael Suleiman

    A good biography of President Obama.

  25. 5 out of 5

    H. P.

    A quick search on Amazon now yields any number of books on Obama. At the time Obama: From Power to Promise was released, during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, there were virtually none. So at the time it was a valuable contribution. Ultimately, however, Mendells book is pretty thin on substance and may offer little now that biographers have had more time to pore over his life (although that quick search is heavy on results that hardly strike one as objective). Mendell offers very A quick search on Amazon now yields any number of books on Obama. At the time Obama: From Power to Promise was released, during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, there were virtually none. So at the time it was a valuable contribution. Ultimately, however, Mendell’s book is pretty thin on substance and may offer little now that biographers have had more time to pore over his life (although that quick search is heavy on results that hardly strike one as objective). Mendell offers very little new information. For Obama’s early years he largely pulls directly from Obama’s own Dreams of my Father. An autobiography is a rather dubious source, particularly as a sole source in many cases. In fact, he relies on it so heavily readers may either wonder why they don’t just go to the source, or wonder why they need material they’ve already read regurgitated. The most recent information (From Promise to Power ends with Obama announcing his run for the presidency) should be pretty well known to anyone who followed the news at the time. Mendell was the beat reporter following Obama’s US Senate campaign and the best info tends to spring from that. For example, directly before giving the speech that launched him into the national consciousness at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama turned to Mendell and, far from shaking with nerves, told him “I’m Lebron, baby.”

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aichi

    So far, I am feeling that I am very similar to my man Barack in many ways....particularly the weird/not as good traits. 1) Obama: "Wasup, brother!" Black dude: "Huh?" Lesson learned: Don't try too hard, especially don't try too hard to be somebody you are not. 2) Obama, in his days in Columbia, got a B in a class that he obviously knows more than his classmates. His prof told him "I am grading you on a different curve. You need to try and apply yourself to the fullest, make the most of your So far, I am feeling that I am very similar to my man Barack in many ways....particularly the weird/not as good traits. 1) Obama: "Wasup, brother!" Black dude: "Huh?" Lesson learned: Don't try too hard, especially don't try too hard to be somebody you are not. 2) Obama, in his days in Columbia, got a B in a class that he obviously knows more than his classmates. His prof told him "I am grading you on a different curve. You need to try and apply yourself to the fullest, make the most of your potential and opportunities." He vowed to himself to take advantage of what he has, and do better than his family. Lesson learned: Kicking ass even if you are slacking = NOT acceptable. 3) Faith is not how you talk; faith is how you live your life according to your values and mission. It's not about what you do or what position you are in - it's about what you want. 4) As much value as there is in observing, theorizing, and learning.....it's the "participatory" experience that really counts. You gotta believe it, and give it a try....failure can be the best thing that happens to somebody.

  27. 5 out of 5

    E

    I had hoped this book would serve as a complement to THE AUDACITY OF HOPE and DREAMS FROM MY FATHER since the author can offer a third-person perspective. It did live up to this expectation, essentially telling the story of an up-and-coming politician who at heart is indeed very liberal - by American standards - but has shunned extremist presentation and tactics for the sake of pragmatic cooperation with the enemy. However, David Mendell chose to tell the story with himself the Chicago Tribune I had hoped this book would serve as a complement to THE AUDACITY OF HOPE and DREAMS FROM MY FATHER since the author can offer a third-person perspective. It did live up to this expectation, essentially telling the story of an up-and-coming politician who at heart is indeed very liberal - by American standards - but has shunned extremist presentation and tactics for the sake of pragmatic cooperation with the enemy. However, David Mendell chose to tell the story with himself the Chicago Tribune Journalist very present as the narrator, and I did not find this style beguiling. One could argue that it's a joke for members of the media to pretend they are objective and thus the more obvious they make their perspective, the truer they are to the process. I found his attention to detail - especially the names and intricacies of the Chicago political machines - diligent but flat-out boring. I'm glad I've read this book for the few useful tidbits I picked up, but it took forever for me to finish it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Glen Chern

    Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell covered Barack Obama's successful 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. While this book is largely about that campaign, Mendell combines biographical background as well as interviews he conducted with Obama's half-sister and maternal grandmother who were living in Hawaii at the time the author was compiling resource for his book and articles. One of the highlights of this book is the author's inclusion of Senator Obama's 10-day trip through Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell covered Barack Obama's successful 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. While this book is largely about that campaign, Mendell combines biographical background as well as interviews he conducted with Obama's half-sister and maternal grandmother who were living in Hawaii at the time the author was compiling resource for his book and articles. One of the highlights of this book is the author's inclusion of Senator Obama's 10-day trip through Africa, including his visit to his father's native home of Kenya. Mendell recounts how Barack and Michelle were overwhelmed at times by the tremendous reception he received from the Kenyan natives and Barack's family members. This was an exceptional work of literature that was objective, fair and respectful of its primary subject.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    After reading this I realized that Toby Ziegler was right. During the seventh season of the West Wing, he told Joshua Lyman that Matt Santos, the democratic nominee for President of the United States, would not win because he did not have the necessary hubris to be the leader of the free world. Of course, as watchers, we were cheering from Jimmy Smits (although I was never able to shake my crush on Alan Alda from his MASH days) and we dismissed Toby as "sour grapes". The man was facing After reading this I realized that Toby Ziegler was right. During the seventh season of the West Wing, he told Joshua Lyman that Matt Santos, the democratic nominee for President of the United States, would not win because he did not have the necessary hubris to be the leader of the free world. Of course, as watchers, we were cheering from Jimmy Smits (although I was never able to shake my crush on Alan Alda from his MASH days) and we dismissed Toby as "sour grapes". The man was facing significant prison time, we surmised. After reading this book and his two autobiographies, I have to conclude that as much as I may admire the cool and collected Barack Obama, he DOES have the hubris. It rings through loud and clear. I'm not saying that he's the only one - it's probably true for anyone running for a political office - but it does bring the fairytale down to reality.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lori Ann

    This was a bit of a slog. I read it rather than the Obama autobiographies to try to get an unbiased view. It's very detailed--probably moreso than need be. It did change my opinion on Obama--I had been naively hoping that he was as values-based as he appears to be, but the book outlines his rise in popularity as a very carefully-constructed plan, and gives quite a few examples of how his voting was done to cause as little controversy as possible (as opposed to being cast out of a sense of doing This was a bit of a slog. I read it rather than the Obama autobiographies to try to get an unbiased view. It's very detailed--probably moreso than need be. It did change my opinion on Obama--I had been naively hoping that he was as values-based as he appears to be, but the book outlines his rise in popularity as a very carefully-constructed plan, and gives quite a few examples of how his voting was done to cause as little controversy as possible (as opposed to being cast out of a sense of doing what's right.) So I'm definitely feeling more jaded and disappointed...but I suppose I was naive to hope that someone could rise to that level in politics without having to bow to strategy. Sigh.

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