A Promised Land by Barack Obama – A Book Review

Though this 701 page book took me a very long time to read, I appreciated every minute of it. A Promised Land confirmed everything I already knew I admired about President Barack Obama–he’s intelligent, thoughtful, honest, studious, and devoted to his wife, his children, the American people, and democracy in general.

A Promised Land offers ample access into the grueling day-to-day affairs of a campaign trail, the difficulties in achieving even the smallest of things in government, and the highlights of President Obama’s first four years in office. After reading this book, I will never look at politics or the office of the president the same.

However, the most fascinating aspect of the book is the simple insight into Barack Obama as a human being. He reveals himself not just as the President Of the United States, but also as a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a neighbor, a friend, and a man. He doesn’t claim to be perfect, nor does he pretend to be. Though he certainly spent time discussing his victories, he also admitted his defeats and the mistakes that led to them.

This kind of authenticity really spoke to me. Granted, I understand Barack Obama wrote this very book about Barack Obama, so there is obviously the potential for cherry picking and sugar coating. But it didn’t strike me as either. To me, A Promised Land felt very candid.

As you know, A Promised Land initially intended to be a single volume. However, because President Obama is articulate, verbose, and a talented writer, he needed to split his two terms as president into two volumes.

This first volume obviously tackles his first four years in office–both how he got there and what he did during that time. However, it also subtly acknowledges those moments that, now in hindsight, led to Donald Trump’s presidency, the division within the Republican Party, and the schism attempting to rip America apart.

I won’t lie to you–this is not an easy read. It goes into great detail concerning the complexities of politics, the nuances of the presidency, and the intricacies of the geopolitical landscape. However, it’s a very informative read, and a rather rewarding one at that.

Regardless of your feelings about President Obama, if nothing else, I recommend A Promised Land simply to offer insight into what it means to be president.

HBO, Watchmen, and the Tulsa Massacre

Watchmen is an HBO original series based on a highly regarded graphic novel. It depicts an alternate world where super heroes are real, but most of them are psychologically damaged and ill-prepared to wield the power they utilize.

The HBO series picks up thirty years after the graphic novel ends, which I thought was a clever direction to take.

The first episode begins in the 1920s with an awful, awful race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where black American citizens are being killed indiscriminately by their white neighbors. It is violent, heartbreaking, and potent.

I’m ashamed to confess that I thought it was a plot point for the alternate world of Watchmen. However, something about it rang true–it just felt authentic. So I Googled “Tulsa Massacre.”

Imagine my horror.

I’m embarrassed that, as a 42 year old man, I learned about the Tulsa Massacre from a TV show. I don’t ever remember hearing a word about it before that moment. I don’t remember seeing anything about it on TV, in books, in school–nothing. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention. Or, perhaps it was overlooked by modern society.

I have to wonder what else I don’t know about. What else hasn’t made it into the history books? What else hasn’t been allowed to remain at the forefront? Have we been uninformed or misinformed about anything else?

Of course we have.

And, obviously, I could work a lot harder at trying to learn about these forgotten events.

During this weekend, HBO is allowing you to view the entire Watchmen series for free. It delves deeply into issues of race, police brutality, and the legacy of hatred. It also exists well within the realm of science fiction, though, so be prepared for that aspect of it, too. I personally love it when genres intersect; I found the series enthralling.

You can start viewing it here: https://www.hbo.com/watchmen. (Remember, it’s only free this weekend.)

You can also learn more about the Tulsa Massacre at this link that HBO provides on the Watchmen page: https://www.theatlantic.com/sponsored/hbo-2019/the-massacre-of-black-wall-street/3217/

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Titanic: World’s Largest Museum Attraction: Branson, Baby! – Our 2019 Spring Break (Part 5)

My wife is a huge history fan, so our visit to the Titanic museum in Branson was always a foregone conclusion.  I’ve got some good news for you — there’s something at this impressive attraction for everyone!

We bought our tickets online well ahead of time, but–during spring break, at least–this wasn’t really necessary.  We arrived around 10:00 a.m. and had virtually no wait.  They do like to start groups at the top of the hour, but I don’t believe it’s a strict requirement.  Anyway, our tickets were waiting on us with no problems at all.

The exterior of the museum will astound you.  As you approach, you’ll notice that the front of the Titanic looms above high.  You can look at the picture below to get a sense of the scale.  It’s mammoth.  Of course, they obviously could only replicate about the first quarter of the ship.  That first one-fourth, though … wow!

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by curators wearing authentic clothing.  You also get to see a replica of an actual propeller hanging above your head.  While it’s obviously not authentic, the size is correct, and it is breathtaking.

The museum offers listening devices that allow you to hear audio pertaining to specific areas of the museum.  They have two versions.  One is aimed at adults.  The other is meant for children.  The museum even designates which channels are for adults and which are for kids.  It’s a small, though much appreciated, feature.  Both of my daughters were happy to listen to the kid-friendly snippets.

Once you enter the first exhibit, you’re met with an enormous model of the vessel about the size of a couch.  The detail is amazing and you could probably spend an hour alone studying it.

Once you leave this exhibit, you’ll encounter a speaker walking you through the Titanic’s doomed journey.  Our presenter, a retired teacher, was excellent.  Though he probably gives the same talk dozens of times a day, he showed wonderful enthusiasm and really made it fun to experience.

I won’t run through every single exhibit with you, but they have plenty for the entire family to enjoy.  For the grown-up history buffs, prepare yourselves for actual recovered artifacts like paperwork, cutlery, life vests, furniture, a replica of the grand staircase, vintage clothing, and that’s just to name a few.

For the more tactile patrons, the museum offers an actual wheel that you can spin, a deck replicating both the temperature and night of the awful accident, a vat of water with a timer for you to stick your hand in that mimic’s the temperature the survivors would have had to endure, three different portions of the deck at different pitches for you to experience what the sinking would have felt like, and so much more!

Furthermore, you will be given a ticket stub when you enter with the name of an actual passenger on the Titanic and their biography up to the night of the tragedy.  As you exit the museum, you’ll get to discover if your person survived or not.

Though the Titanic museum is extremely educational and offers a lot of really fun, physical things to do, it’s also quite sobering as the full impact of the travesty settles upon you.

If you’re traveling to Branson, I would consider this a “must-do” event.

You can visit the Titanic museum by clicking HERE.

 

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Did you enjoy this article?  Listen to my podcast, Stories By Scott William Foley, HERE!