The Art Of Being A Good Man: 15 Great Quotes From Barack Obama

In a way, Obama the politician was a disappointment for Africans. His father was Kenyan and Africans could be forgiven for raising their hopes. It did not play out as imagined. People expected a robust policy but Obama was fully occupied, trying to make America sane again.

On the other hand, George W. Bush is widely credited for initiating a visible policy and humanitarian support for African issues. Obama did not have the luxury of cosying up to Africa, at least not in the way many expected.  His tenure was focused on trade to counter Chinese presence than aid.

Nonetheless, in his 8 years in office, the continent still claimed him as one of their own.  Their proudest son. He was warmly received when he visited Ghana, Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The symbolism of Barrack Obama, the man, was one of his most underrated qualities. Obama was a good role model for uprightness and he broaden the scope of black manliness. Obama earned his place as a dignified man and flipped the stereotype of bravado expected of a black man in power. He expressed a personal sense of excellence that was worth emulating.

There was no drama with Obama. I think Obama picked the middle path, between hard and soft power and his masculinity script challenged the rigid views of traditional manhood.

One of Obama’s strengths was that he thought through his speeches and shared nuggets frequently. I trolled the internet to find a few memorable quotes from Obama on being a good man.

The quotes are extracts from his speeches and books.

1.On being Yourself

It’s easy to absorb all kinds of messages from society about masculinity and come to believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a man. But as I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.

Read more:

  1. On Becoming A Father

Being a father is about more than just having children — it is about summoning the courage to love and support them over anything else. We must always strive to be the best parents and role models we can be and commit to being present in the lives of our kids.

Nothing is more precious than the moments we get to spend with our families — in conversations at the dinner table, coaching tips shouted from the sidelines, or profound experiences of learning and growing and teaching. Today, let us express our gratitude for the men who have enriched our lives and shaped our characters, and let us never stop working to show them how much they are valued and loved.

Fathers provide the discipline, guidance, and love it takes to flourish. With persistence and patience, generosity and integrity, they build our cores and help us understand right from wrong. They are some of our earliest and strongest sources of support and encouragement, and they serve as role models and sounding boards in our youth and as we grow.

From single fathers who struggle to make ends meet to surrogates who step up to be there for America’s daughters and sons, these men help shoulder the greatest obligation that exists — raising the next generation. Regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status; whether biological, foster, or adoptive; fathers teach their children the values that matter most and steer their moral compasses.

Full text here:


  1. On Becoming a present Parent

It’s up to us — as fathers and parents — to instill this ethic of excellence in our children. It’s up to us to say to our daughters, don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for those goals.

It’s up to us to tell our sons, those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in my house we give glory to achievement, self-respect and hard work. It’s up to us to set these high expectations. And that means meeting those expectations ourselves. That means setting examples of excellence in our own lives.

Read the full speech here.

  1. On Male Vulnerability

Michelle is a tremendously strong person, and has a very strong sense of herself and who she is and where she comes from. But I also think in her eyes you can see a trace of vulnerability that most people don’t know, because when she’s walking through the world she is this tall, beautiful, confident woman.

There is a part of her that is vulnerable and young and sometimes frightened, and I think seeing both of those things is what attracted me to her. And then what sustains our relationship is I’m extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways.

And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings.

It’s that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.

Read full text here:


  1. On Finding Peace with your Heritage.

One of the things I fell prey to during my teen years was this need to separate myself from my parents and grandparents and take on this macho African-American image of a basketball player talking trash. The other day, somebody asked me, “Why do you think you ended up embracing all the stereotypes? You tried pot, coke.”

Back in the seventies, we had Shaft and Superfly or Flip Wilson and Geraldine. If you had to choose between those, it was pretty clear which direction you’d go. But you’re right:

As a teen, I had this divided identity—one inside the home, one for the outside world. It wasn’t until I got to college that I started realizing that was fundamentally dishonest.

I knew there had to be a different way for me to understand myself as a black man and yet not reject the love and values given to me by my mother and her parents. I had to reconcile that I could be proud of my African-American heritage and yet not be limited by it.

Read more:

  1. On Passing Judgement

How could we judge other men until we had stood in their shoes?
Look at yourself before you pass judgment. Don’t make someone else clean up your mess.

Full Text here: Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

  1. On the burden of Social Obligations

If you have something, then everyone will want a piece of it. So you have to draw the line somewhere. If everyone is family, no one is family.

Full Text here: Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance


  1. On the influence of Fathers

Someone once said that every man is trying to live up to his father’s expectations or make up for their father’s mistakes….

Full Text here:Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

  1. On accepting the reality of life

Life is not obliged to work out as you’d planned. I began feeling the way I imagine an actor or athlete must feel when, after years of commitment to a particular dream…he realizes that he’s gone just about as far as talent or fortune will take him. The dream will not happen, and he now faces the choice of accepting this fact like a grownup and moving on to more sensible pursuits, or refusing the truth and ending up bitter, quarrelsome, and slightly pathetic. 

Full Text here:Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

  1. On avoid draining political arguments

One cardinal rule of the road is, we don’t watch CNN, the news or MSNBC. We don’t watch any talking heads or any politics. We watch SportsCenter and argue about that…

Read more: The New York Times.

  1. On Not Believing your own Hype

 “One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama,” … “That’s not you.”

Read more:


  1. On knowing your History

All people have to understand where they come from.  But we also have to remember why these lessons are important.

We know a history so that we can learn from it.  We learn our history because we understand the sacrifices that were made before, so that when we make sacrifices we understand we’re doing it on behalf of future generations. 

Full remarks:

  1. On our responsibility to the next Generation

There’s a proverb that says, “We have not inherited this land from our forebears, we have borrowed it from our children.” In other words, we study the past so it can guide us into the future, and inspire us to do better.

Full remarks:

14: On feminism and Gender stereotypes

Gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. … You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.

Read more:

15. On fitness

The rest of my time will more be productive if you give me my work out time…You have to exercise or at some point you will just break down…Barack Obama works out for 45 minutes, six days a week. He resolved to commit to a fit life at 22 years of age and the work shows.



Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan writer, curator and editor. This blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan and African life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. Kiama Kaara

    That’s a real succint presentation on key points that every man should have a look at. Certainly not a copy and paste but all manifest itself differently to each person but quite a trend in there. Thanks.

  2. Very insightful blog. I’m here to stay. Good Job OP.

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