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Obama the Stellar Law Student

With U.S. Sen. Barack Obama officially exploring a run for the presidency, the news media has taken a keen interest in his law student days at Harvard Law School. Yesterday's Boston Globe carried an in-depth look at Obama the law student and his tenure as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Reporters Michael Levenson and Jonathan Saltzman paint a portrait of Obama as an even-handed leader and a unifying voice.

"Right from the start, when he arrived in the fall of 1988 at the age of 27, Obama seemed different. With his leather bomber jacket, tattered jeans, and pack of cigarettes, he was older and appeared less starchy than many of his fresh-faced classmates newly arrived from the Ivy League. He was also one of the small minority of black students on the campus of about 1,500 of the nation's most ambitious future lawyers, judges, and corporate executives.

"Beyond his appearance, what set him apart was his approach to argument, the lifeblood of the law school and the constant occupation of the young lawyers-in-training. While other students were determined to prove the merits of their beliefs through logic and determination, Obama preferred to listen, seek others' views, and find a middle way."

But at the Boston blog Blue Mass Group, it was an Associated Press report two days earlier that caught blogger Charley Blandy's attention. More to the point, it was this quote about Obama from famed Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, for whom Obama worked as a research assistant:

"I can't pretend that I had any idea then that he would be a serious presidential candidate -- that would have been a crazy thing for anyone to project at that stage of a career -- but he was certainly the most all-around impressive student I had seen in decades."

Given the professor and the institution, that is high praise. But blogger Blandy nevertheless wonders:

"Wow. Now, it may well be that Tribe indeed likes Obama a lot and liked him then, but his effusiveness may still be calculated post facto to help his old protégé. Maybe. And maybe Obama's really that good."

Back to that Boston Globe report, where former Harvard Law professor Derrick A. Bell Jr. advises not to underestimate the significance of Obama's election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. "It's almost as impressive that he was elected president of the Harvard Law Review as him being elected senator of Illinois," Bell says. 

We'll check back with Bell if Obama makes it to the White House.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 29, 2007 at 03:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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