My Lessons from Barack Obama’s Presidential Memoir

Abigail Oyinkan Olajire
4 min readMar 28, 2022

I look forward to Volume II

Lubo Minar (Unsplash)

In February 2022, I decided to read Barack Obama’s ‘A Promised Land’. It was exhilarating to get a glimpse of the life of the Obamas, Obama’s political outlook, life in the White House, events and people that shaped his time as the President. And like every biography I have read, I learnt a great deal and I thought it wise to share some valuable lessons.

Here are some:

Forge the right team for any endeavor

The former president quite understood the principle of adopting a strong support system. Behind every successful bill he passed, great speech he presented, the successful campaign that voted for the first black American president, there was a team of hard working and smart men and women from diverse backgrounds and expertise.

Sentiments were most likely not given precedence in his selection neither done in isolation. There were consultations from different quarters before any resolution.

So, success can never be achieved in isolation, we all need a retinue of the right people no matter the size. In fact, there was a continuous mention of some of them (Valerie, Rahm, Marvin, Reggie, Axe, Gibbs etc.) and the impact they made throughout his presidency.

Hard work betrays none

This was probably one of the reinforcing themes on each page of the volume. Obama gave diverse scenarios of the hurdle he faced especially with the Republicans in the senate to pass a bill.

The republicans (like Mitch McConnell) who we can call his ‘adversaries’ kept him on his feet, so they (his team) really had to work hard especially for the recovery act bill within the few months of his first tenure and health care bill. Incidentally, March 2022 marks the 12th year Obama’s health care bill was passed.

Your ‘enemies’ should not be the reason you achieved nothing, on the contrary, they should propel you to win more! Imagine if over half of the senators were democrats? Laxity, mediocrity might prevail since there are none to challenge

The presence of your ‘enemies’ propel you to question yourself, answer those questions, cement your belief and help you sound convincing when you stand to defend them.

Obama believed in democracy, his health care bill and the recovery act; he was able to convince himself, then his team, the polity and then the house that the risk was worth the take!

Your family is key.

I particularly relished every paragraph he wrote about his family during their dinner time, vacation etc. Barack and Michelle’s ability to guard the privacy of their kids and their efforts to ensure a normal life for their girls should be commended.

Obama, most likely one of the busiest men of the planet, made it a point of duty to have dinner with his family even if he had to go back to the oval office for his countless meetings. That’s a big lesson in our ‘no timecentric’ world.

Never work in a toxic environment

Within the pages of the volume, Obama reiterated to his team the need to respect each other, their views and celebrate each other when the need arises. He laid the example by sending bouquet of flowers or a note to any of his team members celebrating a birthday or any other event

When a member of his team needed some time off towards the end of his first term to spend with his family, he was given a chance. When another wanted to contest for a political position in his state, Obama gave support. Why wouldn’t they give their all to serving the nation? It’s just soothing when you know that your boss care about your welfare as you do.

He has great mastery of words especially when describing members of his team. I totally agree with Chimamanda Adichie’s review that Obama “makes heroes of people”.

Whatever good you do, people will talk, so do it anyway

For every move he took to save the economy, transform America’s healthcare, track down Osama Bin Laden, there were naysayers and encouragers. My point here is, people will mutter words at any action you take- good or bad. So while you must be thorough in your decision making process, get ready for mixed reactions because it is vain to believe you can please everyone. So face your duty, do your best, learn from your errors and ignore naysayers!

Never look down on anyone.

He was black, they said he had a weird name, grew up in unusual circumstances, but guess what? He manned one of the most powerful offices in the world for 8 years! That’s enough lesson!

You must Understand to be Understood

I loved the fact that before he made any decision, he listened to every member of his team carefully. This trait was glaring in the decision to kill Osama Bin Laden. If you want people to give you their listening ears, you have to lend them yours too and first actually!

I believe there are more lessons, so if you have read the book, I’d be glad if you share yours too!

And what are you reading in the next month?



Abigail Oyinkan Olajire

I am a health communication researcher interested in creating and implementing cultural competent solutions to health problems for underserved communities.