After Harvard

Mem­o­ries of Barack Oba­ma — After Har­vard Law School 

No one heard of Oba­ma before 2004! Where are the cas­es he worked on as a lawyer? Where are the stu­dents he taught? What about the cours­es he taught? The pro­fes­sors he worked with? Who was the Best Man at his wed­ding? Every­thing has been sealed! It’s as if he burst on the scene with no past. The only peo­ple that knew him were a cou­ple of peo­ple with sto­ries of how evil he was. 

Like every­thing else Birther, this meme is eas­i­ly debunked. Here are pic­tures, videos, inter­views, links, and oth­er resources.

NOTE: Barack Oba­ma’ career devel­oped via mul­ti­ple simul­ta­ne­ous vol­un­teer and pro­fes­sion­al posi­tions. As such, this sec­tion is not as lin­ear as the oth­er sec­tions have been.   

Chica­go: Build­ing a Career

Prac­tic­ing Attor­ney 
Pub­lic Allies Chica­go (1992, Found­ing Mem­ber of the Board of Direc­tors)
The Woods Fund of Chica­go (Board Mem­ber, 1994–2004)Joyce Foun­da­tion (1994–2002)
Chica­go Annen­berg Chal­lenge (Board of Direc­tors 1995–2002, Chair­man and Found­ing Pres­i­dent, 1995–1999)
Luge­nia Burns Hope Cen­ter (Board of Direc­tors)
Cen­ter for Neigh­bor­hood Tech­nol­o­gy (Board of Direc­tors)
Chica­go Lawyers’ Com­mit­tee for Civ­il Rights Under Law (Board of Direc­tors)
Cook Coun­ty Bar Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mu­ni­ty Law Project
Pub­lished Author (1995 and 2006) UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Illi­nois State Sen­ate  UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Illi­nois US Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cam­paign UNDER CONSTRUCTION
2004 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion UNDER CONSTRUCTION



Prac­tic­ing Attor­ney

IL State Bar

Admit­ted to prac­tice in Illi­nois, Decem­ber 17, 1991 

 (Vol­un­tar­i­ly retired 2002)

Admit­ted to:

  • Illi­nois Supreme Court 
  • Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court, North­ern Dis­trict of Illi­nois 
  • Unit­ed States Court of Appeals, Sev­enth Cir­cuit








Min­er Barn­hill & Gal­land

Attor­ney Jud­son Min­er called Har­vard to offer a job to a grad­u­at­ing stu­dent named Barack Oba­ma and did­n’t expect to be show­ered with grat­i­tude. Still, he was­n’t expect­ing the recep­tion he got. “You can leave your name and take a num­ber,” the woman who answered the phone at the Har­vard Law Review said breezi­ly. “You’re No. 647.”

As the first black pres­i­dent of the Har­vard Law Review, Oba­ma had his pick of top law firms. He chose Miner’s Chica­go civ­il rights firm, where he rep­re­sent­ed com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers, dis­crim­i­na­tion vic­tims and black vot­ers try­ing to force a redraw­ing of city ward bound­aries. Oba­ma had offers from more pres­ti­gious, high­er-pay­ing firms. But he chose to work for Min­er — for­mer May­or Harold Wash­ing­ton’s coun­sel — because of his fir­m’s focus on civ­il rights lit­i­ga­tion and com­mu­ni­ty rede­vel­op­ment.

Barack was a young kid when he came here,” Min­er said. “Senior lawyers are not going to be very def­er­en­tial to Barack. He was not ‘THE Barack Oba­ma’ yet.” Oba­ma was 32 in 1993, hav­ing entered law school at 27. “He wrote lots of sub­stan­tial mem­os, but he did­n’t try any cas­es,” said Jud­son Min­er, a part­ner in the firm who was Oba­ma’s boss. 

Dur­ing Oba­ma’s three years work­ing as a full-time asso­ciate at Min­er’s firm, Min­er noticed some of the qual­i­ties that have become known as his strengths and weak­ness­es on the cam­paign trail: “As smart as he is, he is very quick to appre­ci­ate all kinds of nuances with legal issues,” Min­er said. “He finds it very hard to shoot back a real quick, sim­ple answer. His instinct was to bet­ter under­stand what the nuances were.” 

His prac­tice was con­fined main­ly to fed­er­al court in Chica­go, where he made for­mal appear­ances in only five dis­trict court cas­es and anoth­er five in cas­es before the 7th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals — a total of 10 cas­es in his legal career. He was on the win­ning side of just about all those cas­es. Min­er said there were 30 cas­es to which Oba­ma con­tributed in some way.

Oba­ma admits he played a most­ly behind-the-scenes role at his law firm. He researched the law, draft­ed motions, pre­pared for depo­si­tions and did oth­er less glam­orous work dur­ing his three years full-time and eight years “of coun­sel” to the firm. Many tri­al lawyers spend their time sim­i­lar­ly, part of a trend over the last 20 years of set­tling a greater per­cent­age of cas­es before tri­al.

A review of the cas­es Oba­ma worked on dur­ing his brief legal career shows he played the “strong, silent type” in court, intro­duc­ing him­self and his client, then step­ping aside to let oth­er lawyers do the talk­ing.

Only once did Oba­ma appear before the pres­ti­gious 7th Cir­cuit U.S. Court of Appeals, where Judge Richard Pos­ner is leg­endary for tear­ing into inex­pe­ri­enced lawyers. But Pos­ner knew Oba­ma as a fel­low senior lec­tur­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Law School and kept his grilling polite. Oba­ma nev­er lost his cool, and he won the case. 

After three years doing “first-rate” work as an asso­ciate, Oba­ma was elect­ed to the state Sen­ate, and Min­er offered to keep him on salary and let him open a Spring­field branch of the firm.… Oba­ma became “of coun­sel,” work­ing out of the office dur­ing the Leg­is­la­ture’s sum­mer breaks until he was elect­ed to the U.S. Sen­ate.


Robert Kriss, Fay Clay­ton and every oth­er co-coun­sel and oppos­ing coun­sel inter­viewed for this sto­ry praised Oba­ma’s legal abil­i­ty, tem­pera­ment and every­thing about his court­room demeanor, even though, they agree, he did­n’t say much in the court­room. Many are now donors to his cam­paign.

It’s a real do-good firm,” says Fay Clay­ton, lead coun­sel for the Nation­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Women in a land­mark law­suit aimed at stop­ping abor­tion clin­ic vio­lence. “Barack and that firm were a per­fect fit. He wasn’t going to make as much mon­ey there as he would at a LaSalle Street firm or in New York, but mon­ey was nev­er Barack’s first pri­or­i­ty any­way.”


ACORN v. Edgar (1995) — Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court, N.D. Illi­nois, East­ern Divi­sion.

ACORN v. Edgar (1995) — Unit­ed States Court of Appeals, Sev­enth Cir­cuit

ACORN v. Illi­nois State Bd. of Elec­tions (1996) — Unit­ed States Court of Appeals, Sev­enth Cir­cuit

Motor Vot­er Case: In 1995, for­mer Repub­li­can Gov. Jim Edgar refused to imple­ment the fed­er­al “Motor Vot­er” law, which Repub­li­cans argued could invite fraud and which some Repub­li­cans feared could swell the ranks of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers. The law man­dat­ed peo­ple be allowed to reg­is­ter to vote in gov­ern­ment offices such as dri­ver’s license renew­al cen­ters. Oba­ma sued on behalf of ACORN, the Asso­ci­a­tion of Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­ni­za­tions for Reform Now. The League of Women Vot­ers and oth­er pub­lic-inter­est groups joined in.

He and his client were the ones who filed the orig­i­nal case — they blazed the trail,” said Paul Mol­li­ca, who rep­re­sent­ed the League. Tran­scripts show that at court hear­ings, Oba­ma iden­ti­fied him­self, then let Mol­li­ca begin speak­ing. Maria Valdez of the Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund some­times spoke. The U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment joined in. Let­ting the heavy-hit­ters at the Jus­tice Depart­ment make the argu­ments appears to have been a sound strat­e­gy — Oba­ma’s side won, even with­out him talk­ing.

Oba­ma was involved to some extent in the legal work, but he was not the leader in actu­al­ly lit­i­gat­ing the thing — Paul [Mol­li­ca] prob­a­bly was the leader of the coali­tion and did most of the legal work,” said David Melton, who rep­re­sent­ed Cook Coun­ty Clerk David Orr. “Oba­ma did have some exper­tise in cer­tain con­sti­tu­tion­al aspects of the case.”

After Oba­ma’s side won in court, Edgar appealed. Oba­ma’s side won again — with­out Oba­ma talk­ing. The lawyers then gath­ered in a small room in the cour­t­house to decide how to push the state to fix the prob­lems. “We had a rau­cous meet­ing short­ly after the remand, and Barack was a very adamant spokesman for tak­ing a very aggres­sive stance to try to repair the dam­age,” Mol­li­ca said. “He’s the one who put a charge in us that it was time to move and hold the state account­able.”  

Entry at Civ­il Rights Lit­i­ga­tion Clear­ing House.

Entries at Google Schol­ar: 

ACORN v. Edgar, 880 F. Supp. 1215 (1995) — Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court, N.D. Illi­nois, East­ern Divi­sion.

ACORN v. Edgar, 56 F. 3d 791 (1995) — Unit­ed States Court of Appeals, Sev­enth Cir­cuit

ACORN v. Illi­nois State Bd. of Elec­tions, 75 F. 3d 304 (1996)

Buy­cks-Rober­son v. Citibank Fed. Sav. Bank, 162 F.R.D. 322 (N.D. Ill. 1995)

Redlin­ing Case: Oba­ma rep­re­sent­ed Calvin Rober­son in a 1994 law­suit against Citibank, charg­ing the bank sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly denied mort­gages to African-Amer­i­can appli­cants and oth­ers from minor­i­ty neigh­bor­hoods.

I don’t recall him ever stand­ing up and giv­ing an impas­sioned speech — it was a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff,” said Fay Clay­ton, the lead lawyer on the case.

He was the very junior lawyer in that case,” said attor­ney Robert Kriss. “He had just grad­u­at­ed from law school. I don’t recall him being in court at any time I was there. I was the lead lawyer for Citibank and he was not very vis­i­ble to me.”

Entry at Civ­il Rights Leg­is­la­tion Clear­ing House.

Bar­a­vati v. Joseph­thal, Lyon & Ross, Inc. (1994) — Unit­ed States Court of Appeals, Sev­enth Cir­cuit

Whistle­blow­er Case: In 1994, Oba­ma went before the 7th Cir­cuit to defend Ahmad Bar­a­vati, a trad­er black­balled by his boss­es after he report­ed them for fraud. An arbi­tra­tor award­ed Bar­a­vati $60,000 in dam­ages plus $120,000 in puni­tive dam­ages against the for­mer boss­es. They appealed, say­ing arbi­tra­tors don’t have the pow­er to award puni­tive dam­ages.

Oba­ma had a tough job because the same court had ruled a week ear­li­er that an arbi­tra­tor could not award puni­tive dam­ages. But Oba­ma con­vinced them this case was dif­fer­ent.

You’re sug­gest­ing that there’s a fed­er­al com­mon law that likes puni­tive dam­ages, but this could be pre­empt­ed by a state law that says ‘no puni­tive dam­ages,’ ” Pos­ner told Oba­ma.

I don’t think I’m say­ing there’s a fed­er­al law that ‘likes puni­tive dam­ages,’ ” Oba­ma respond­ed, not drop­ping his tone of respect. “I think what I’m say­ing is that there’s a fed­er­al law that likes the notion that the same reme­dies that will be avail­able in court will be avail­able in arbi­tra­tion.”

Oba­ma won, and Bar­a­vati got to keep the extra $120,000. He still is grate­ful. “I found he’s a very smart, inno­v­a­tive, skilled, relent­less advo­cate for his client,” Bar­a­vati said.

Audio of the oral argu­ments.

Entry at Google Schol­ar: Bar­a­vati v. Joseph­thal, Lyon & Ross, Inc., 28 F. 3d 704 (1994) — Unit­ed States Court of Appeals, Sev­enth Cir­cuit  

Unit­ed States ex rel. Chan­dler v. Coun­ty of Cook (2002)

Oba­ma also wrote a major por­tion of an appeals brief on behalf of a whistle­blow­er who exposed waste and cor­rup­tion in a research project involv­ing Cook Coun­ty Hos­pi­tal and the Hek­toen Insti­tute for Med­ical Research and alleged that she was fired in retal­i­a­tion. The case was set­tled out of court. The coun­ty agreed to pay the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment $5 mil­lion, part of which went to the whistle­blow­er, Dr. Janet Chan­dler. Hek­toen agreed to pay $500,000 to the gov­ern­ment plus $170,000 to Chan­dler for wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion. 

Psy­chol­o­gist Janet Chan­dler brought a suc­cess­ful False Claims Act law­suit against Cook Coun­ty Hos­pi­tal for forg­ing data and fail­ing to com­ply with fed­er­al human research reg­u­la­tions in a fed­er­al­ly fund­ed drug abuse study. As a young attor­ney, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma worked on Dr. Chan­dler’s case. The Supreme Court upheld Dr. Chan­dler’s law­suit.

Bar­nett v. Daley, 32 F. 3d 1196 (1994) — Unit­ed States Court of Appeals, Sev­enth Cir­cuit

And Oba­ma was part of a team of lawyers rep­re­sent­ing black vot­ers and alder­men that forced Chica­go to redraw ward bound­aries that the City Coun­cil drew up after the 1990 cen­sus. They said the bound­aries were dis­crim­i­na­to­ry. After an appeals court ruled the map vio­lat­ed the fed­er­al Vot­ing Rights Act, attor­neys for both sides drew up a new set of ward bound­aries.

Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Law School

UCLS Alumni Mag Obama chalkboard


Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Law School — Ideas & ActionUCLS Pro­mo­tion­al video show­ing pro­fes­sors, stu­dents. 2002

Cours­es Taught:

Cur­rent Issues in Racism and the Law Spring Term 1994. Syl­labus

Con­sti­tu­tion­al Law III:

Final Exams 1996, (Answer Memo 1996), 1997, (Answer Memo 1997), 1998,  1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003. Analy­sis by oth­er law pro­fes­sors.


Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Law School Web­siteUCLS Faculty Page

Novem­ber 4, 2008

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Law School con­grat­u­lates for­mer Senior Lec­tur­er Barack Oba­ma on his elec­tion to the office of Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.… 

Barack Oba­ma taught at the Law School from 1992 until his elec­tion to the U.S. Sen­ate in 2004. Dur­ing those years, he brought a dynam­ic teach­ing pres­ence to his cours­es, which includ­ed “Con­sti­tu­tion­al Law III: Equal Pro­tec­tion,” “Vot­ing Rights and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Process,” and a sem­i­nar enti­tled “Cur­rent Issues in Racism and the Law.”

The entire Law School com­mu­ni­ty applauds Pres­i­dent-Elect Oba­ma on his vic­to­ry and wish­es him well dur­ing his term of office.

State­ment Regard­ing Barack Oba­ma  

The Law School has received many media requests about Barack Oba­ma, espe­cial­ly about his sta­tus as “Senior Lec­tur­er.”

From 1992 until his elec­tion to the U.S. Sen­ate in 2004, Barack Oba­ma served as a pro­fes­sor in the Law School. He was a Lec­tur­er from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lec­tur­er from 1996 to 2004, dur­ing which time he taught three cours­es per year. Senior Lec­tur­ers are con­sid­ered to be mem­bers of the Law School fac­ul­ty and are regard­ed as pro­fes­sors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lec­tur­er is dis­tinct from the title of Lec­tur­er, which sig­ni­fies adjunct sta­tus. Like Oba­ma, each of the Law School’s Senior Lec­tur­ers has high-demand careers in pol­i­tics or pub­lic ser­vice, which pre­vent full-time teach­ing. Sev­er­al times dur­ing his 12 years as a pro­fes­sor in the Law School, Oba­ma was invit­ed to join the fac­ul­ty in a full-time tenure-track posi­tion, but he declined.

Shown: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Fac­ul­ty list­ing 1998

Chica­go Sun-Times: Decem­ber 18, 2007


A Sun-Times review of stu­dent eval­u­a­tions from Oba­ma’s 10 years of teach­ing part-time at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Law School shows that stu­dents almost always rat­ed Oba­ma as one of their top instruc­tors — except for one quar­ter in 1997.

While a state sen­a­tor, Oba­ma held class­es ear­ly on Mon­day and late on Fri­day dur­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sions, run­ning right through the school’s pop­u­lar Fri­day evening wine-and-cheese hour. Oba­ma was so pop­u­lar, stu­dents signed up for his class any­way.

We’d be in class and get mes­sages that he would come in 45 min­utes late and every­one would wait for him,” said for­mer stu­dent Andrew Janis, now a New York lawyer. 

I loved teach­ing,” Oba­ma told the Sun-Times. “But when the oppor­tu­ni­ty came [to run for U.S. Sen­ate] I took it. I think some of the pub­lic speak­ing skills I devel­oped in the class­room — stay on your toes; don’t make my answers too long — I’m using on the cam­paign trail.”

The stu­dent eval­u­a­tions of Oba­ma that remain at the school library (some are miss­ing) are over­whelm­ing­ly pos­i­tive. A reporter was unable to find the four stu­dents who said they would not rec­om­mend Oba­ma’s class to anoth­er stu­dent.


Law of DemocracyThe Law of Democ­ra­cy: Legal Struc­ture of the Polit­i­cal Process (Uni­ver­si­ty Case­books), Foun­da­tion Press. Samuel Issacharoff (Author), Pamela S. Kar­lan (Author), Richard H. Pildes (Author), 1998.

Pref­ace to the First Edi­tion, page x:

For read­ing or teach­ing sec­tions of the man­u­script and com­ment­ing, we would like to thank … Barack Oba­ma… 



Craig Cun­ning­ham, UCLS ’93

Craig Cun­ning­ham, ’93, one of the President’s first stu­dents and a sup­port­er of his teacher’s polit­i­cal ambi­tions, felt that Oba­ma was bril­liant, tal­ent­ed, and had the poten­tial to be a great leader. But Cun­ning­ham was also con­cerned about Obama’s polit­i­cal future. 

 “I did expect him to run for office, because I would hang around after class and we would talk about the state sen­ate,” Cun­ning­ham explains. “But after he lost the con­gres­sion­al race to Bob­by Rush I thought he was mov­ing too fast, that he should slow down and not run for a dif­fer­ent office for a while because he was try­ing to do too much at one time. And Chica­go pol­i­tics were not going to allow him to do that. I was wor­ried. And I was real­ly sur­prised when he told me he was going to run for U.S. Sen­ate.” 

We African Amer­i­can stu­dents were very aware of him because at the time there real­ly weren’t a lot of minor­i­ty pro­fes­sors at the Law School,” Cun­ning­ham explains, “and we real­ly want­ed him to be a strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the African Amer­i­can stu­dents. We want­ed him to live up to the pres­sures and reach out to oth­er eth­nic minori­ties. And we were also very excit­ed about pos­si­bly hav­ing an African Amer­i­can tenure-track pro­fes­sor at the Law School.”

Elysia Solomon, UCLS ’99

In Con Law III we study equal process and due process. He was incred­i­bly charis­mat­ic, fun­ny, real­ly will­ing to lis­ten to stu­dent viewpoints—which I thought was very spe­cial at Chica­go,” says Elysia Solomon, ’99. “There were so many diverse views in the class and peo­ple didn’t feel inse­cure about voic­ing their opin­ions. I thought that he did a real­ly good job of bal­anc­ing view­points.”

I knew he was ambi­tious, but at that point in time at the Law School there were so many peo­ple on the fac­ul­ty that you knew weren’t going to be pro­fes­sors for the rest of their lives,” Solomon explains. “We had [Judge] Abn­er Mik­va and Ele­na Kagan and Judge Wood and Judge Pos­ner. There is a very active intel­lec­tu­al life at the Law School and this meld­ing of the spheres of aca­d­e­mics and the real world is very cool. It’s what attracts teach­ers and stu­dents to the school.” 

DeskJesse Ruiz, UCLS ’95

When I walked into class the first day I remem­ber that we—meaning the stu­dents I knew—thought we were going to get a very left-lean­ing per­spec­tive on the law,” explains Jesse Ruiz, ’95. 

We assumed that because he was a minor­i­ty pro­fes­sor in a class he designed. But he was very mid­dle-of-the-road. In his class we were very cog­nizant that we were deal­ing with a dif­fi­cult top­ic, but what we real­ly got out of that class was that he taught us to think like lawyers about those hard top­ics even when we had
issues about those top­ics.”

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, though, he was of greater inter­est to the minor­i­ty stu­dents on cam­pus. “I don’t think most peo­ple know his his­to­ry,” Ruiz says, “but when he became the first African Amer­i­can pres­i­dent of the Har­vard Law Review it was a nation­al sto­ry. I remem­ber­ing read­ing the sto­ry and think­ing I got­ta go to law school!”

In 1996, Oba­ma ran for, and won, the Thir­teenth Dis­trict of Illi­nois state sen­ate seat, which then spanned Chica­go South Side neigh­bor­hoods from Hyde Park–Kenwood to South Shore and west to Chica­go Lawn. Then in 2000 he ran for, and lost, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion for Bob­by Rush’s seat in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

He was very demor­al­ized at that point and would not have rec­om­mend­ed a career in pub­lic ser­vice to any­one,” Ruiz says.  

He had suf­fered a set­back, he was fac­ing a lot of strug­gles in Spring­field, and it was a hard lifestyle trav­el­ing back and forth to Spring­field. We sat at lunch and he talked about how if he had joined a big firm when he grad­u­at­ed he could have been a part­ner. We did a lot of what if. But then he decid­ed to run for U.S. Sen­ate. And the rest is his­to­ry.”

Dan John­son-Wein­berg­er, UCLS ’00

Over time, Oba­ma devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for teach­ing from a non­bi­ased point of view. He was also not­ed for widen­ing the legal views of his stu­dents.

I liked that he includ­ed both jurispru­dence and real pol­i­tics in the class dis­cus­sions,” says Dan John­son-Wein­berg­er, ’00.

Lots of class­es in law school tend to be judge-cen­tric and he had as much a focus on the leg­isla­tive branch as the judi­cial branch. That was refresh­ing.”

I was into state pol­i­tics while I was at the Law School, so I am one of the few alums who knew the Pres­i­dent as both a leg­is­la­tor and as a teacher,” notes John­son-Wein­berg­er. “I thought he would con­tin­ue as a suc­cess­ful politi­cian. But I nev­er would have guessed that he would be our Pres­i­dent.”

Joe Khan, UCLS ’00

Most stu­dents were not that focused on Barack dur­ing the years I was there,” says Joe Khan, ’00. “For exam­ple, every year the pro­fes­sors would donate their time or belong­ings to the law school char­i­ty auc­tion. Pro­fes­sor Obama’s dona­tion was to let two stu­dents spend the day with him in Spring­field, where he’d show them around the state sen­ate and intro­duce them to the oth­er sen­a­tors. Peo­ple now raise thou­sands of dol­lars to be in a room with the man, but my friend and I won the bid for a few hun­dred bucks.” 

David Franklin, UCLS 

In his vot­ing rights course, Oba­ma taught Lani Guinier’s pro­pos­als for struc­tur­ing elec­tions dif­fer­ent­ly to increase minor­i­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Oppo­nents attacked those sug­ges­tions when Guinier was nom­i­nat­ed as assis­tant attor­ney gen­er­al for civ­il rights in 1993, cost­ing her the post.

I think he thought they were good and worth try­ing,” said David Franklin, who now teach­es law at DePaul Uni­ver­si­ty in Chica­go. But whether out of pro­fes­so­r­i­al reserve or bud­ding polit­i­cal cau­tion, Oba­ma would not say so direct­ly. “He sur­faced all the com­pet­ing points of view on Guinier’s pro­pos­als with total neu­tral­i­ty and equa­nim­i­ty,” Franklin said. “He just let the class debate the mer­its of them back and forth.”

Ken­worthey Bilz, UCLS

Any­body who’s think­ing they want to go into acad­e­mia, con­ser­v­a­tive or lib­er­al, kind of knows they have to take equal pro­tec­tion,” says Ken­worthey Bilz, who took equal pro­tec­tion from Oba­ma in 1997 and is now a pro­fes­sor at North­west­ern Law School. “I can very con­fi­dent­ly say he did­n’t strike me as lib­er­al or con­ser­v­a­tive.” 

He was not an ivory tow­er aca­d­e­m­ic,” said for­mer stu­dent Ken­worthey Bilz, who had him for the low-ranked 1997 Con­sti­tu­tion­al Law class. “The class was not his first love. He was basi­cal­ly in the trench­es. These were real prob­lems to him. That kind of on-the-street real­ism was real­ly refresh­ing.”

Patrick Jasperse, UCLS

He was very engag­ing, approach­able and human,” recalls Patrick Jasperse, now a Jus­tice Depart­ment tri­al attor­ney based in Wash­ing­ton.

Andrew Janis, UCLS

While a state sen­a­tor, Oba­ma held class­es ear­ly on Mon­day and late on Fri­day dur­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sions, run­ning right through the school’s pop­u­lar Fri­day evening wine-and-cheese hour. Oba­ma was so pop­u­lar, stu­dents signed up for his class any­way.

We’d be in class and get mes­sages that he would come in 45 min­utes late and every­one would wait for him,” said for­mer stu­dent Andrew Janis, now a New York lawyer.

Some pro­fes­sors are just kind of going through the motions with you,” Janis said. “He actu­al­ly seemed to take every­one’s point of view seri­ous­ly.”

Hall shotAdam Bonin, UCLS

It was 1996, and there I was, in a sem­i­nar room with maybe fif­teen stu­dents, not know­ing that I was learn­ing from the man who might be the next Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.

Spring quar­ter of my sec­ond year, I took Vot­ing Rights and Elec­tion Law as a sem­i­nar with Pro­fes­sor Oba­ma.  Now, let’s be clear: in a school with a lot of Some­bod­ies – Richard Pos­ner, Frank East­er­brook, Cass Sun­stein and David Cur­rie – he was a rel­a­tive nobody, and even com­pared with oth­er younger fac­ul­ty, it was Lar­ry Lessig and Ele­na Kagan who had more of the hype.  But Oba­ma was teach­ing a course in a sub­ject I want­ed to study – at a point when I real­ized that law school was too short to be spent in class­es that felt oblig­a­tory – and that made it an easy deci­sion.

And he was … dif­fer­ent.  For one thing, bet­ter dressed.  Sleek sweaters and blaz­ers as opposed to ill-fit­ting, cof­fee-stained suits with mis­matched ties.  But he was also less for­mal, more relaxed – he nev­er taught the class as though he knew the answers to all the ques­tions he was pos­ing and was just hid­ing the ball from us until we could find them.  Con­fi­dent, sure, but nev­er cocky.

What’s more, he taught Vot­ing Rights in a dif­fer­ent way than oth­ers do.  He didn’t use a text­book, for starters, but rather had us each pur­chase an eight-inch high mul­ti­lith of cas­es, law review arti­cles and statutes that he had per­son­al­ly com­piled. And they weren’t all the “big” cas­es either – no, our class start­ed by review­ing some ear­ly-19th cen­tu­ry cas­es about the denial of the fran­chise, so that as the course moved for­ward we saw “vot­ing rights” not as some sta­t­ic thing to be ana­lyzed, but a con­stant­ly- and still-evolv­ing process to be affect­ed.  Over the course of a few months, we stud­ied changes in the fran­chise, changes in the rights of polit­i­cal par­ties, cam­paign finance law and redis­trict­ing, among oth­er top­ics.  We learned the law, but we also learned it on the lev­el of real-world impact: based on a whites-only par­ty pri­ma­ry, how many peo­ple would be denied a voice?  What kind of poli­cies would result from such a leg­is­la­ture?

Much in the Chica­go tra­di­tion, he want­ed all voic­es to be heard in the class­room, and when there a view­point that wasn’t being expressed or stu­dents were too com­pla­cent in their lib­er­al views, he’d push the con­trary view him­self.  These class­es were con­ver­sa­tions.

And the con­ver­sa­tions extend­ed out­side the class­room.  I spent plen­ty of time in Prof. Obama’s office, talk­ing to him about the paper I was work­ing on.  Just the two of us, one on one, with him always pro­vok­ing me to think deep­er, work hard­er …

Salil Mehra, UCLS

A favorite theme, said Salil Mehra, now a law pro­fes­sor at Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty, were the val­ues and cul­tur­al touch­stones that Amer­i­cans share. Mr. Obama’s case in point: his wife, Michelle, a black woman, loved “The Brady Bunch” so much that she could iden­ti­fy every episode by its open­ing shots.

Adam Gross, UCLS

Are there legal reme­dies that alle­vi­ate not just exist­ing racism, but racism from the past?” Adam Gross, now a pub­lic inter­est lawyer in Chica­go, wrote in his class notes in April 1994.

D. Daniel Sokol, UCLS

But the lib­er­al stu­dents did not nec­es­sar­i­ly find reas­sur­ance. “For peo­ple who thought they were get­ting a doc­tri­nal, rah-rah expe­ri­ence, it wasn’t that kind of class,” said D. Daniel Sokol, a for­mer stu­dent who now teach­es law at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da at Gainesville.

Mary Ellen Calla­han, UCLS

He want­ed his charges to try argu­ing that life was bet­ter under seg­re­ga­tion, that black peo­ple were bet­ter ath­letes than white ones. “I remem­ber think­ing, ‘You’re offend­ing my lib­er­al instincts,’ ” Mary Ellen Calla­han, now a pri­va­cy lawyer in Wash­ing­ton, recalled.

In class, Mr. Oba­ma sound­ed many of the same themes he does on the cam­paign trail, Ms. Calla­han said, tick­ing them off: “self-deter­min­ism as opposed to pater­nal­ism, strength in num­bers, his con­cept of com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment.”

David Franklin, UCLS

In his vot­ing rights course, Mr. Oba­ma taught Lani Guinier’s pro­pos­als for struc­tur­ing elec­tions dif­fer­ent­ly to increase minor­i­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tion. 

I think he thought they were good and worth try­ing,” said David Franklin, who now teach­es law at DePaul Uni­ver­si­ty in Chica­go.

But whether out of pro­fes­so­r­i­al reserve or bud­ding polit­i­cal cau­tion, Mr. Oba­ma would not say so direct­ly. “He sur­faced all the com­pet­ing points of view on Guinier’s pro­pos­als with total neu­tral­i­ty and equa­nim­i­ty,” Mr. Franklin said. “He just let the class debate the mer­its of them back and forth.”

Byron Rodriguez, UCLS

Now, watch­ing the news, it is dawn­ing on Mr. Obama’s for­mer stu­dents that he was min­ing mate­r­i­al for his polit­i­cal future even as he taught them. Byron Rodriguez, a real estate lawyer in San Fran­cis­co, recalls his professor’s admi­ra­tion for the soar­ing but plain­spo­ken speech­es of Fred­er­ick Dou­glass.

No one speaks this way any­more,” Mr. Oba­ma told his class, won­der­ing aloud what had hap­pened to the art of polit­i­cal ora­to­ry. In par­tic­u­lar, Mr. Oba­ma admired Douglass’s use of a col­lec­tive voice that embraced black and white con­cerns, one that Mr. Oba­ma has now adopt­ed him­self. 

When you hear him talk­ing about issues, it’s at a lev­el so much sim­pler than the one he’s capa­ble of,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “He was a lot more fun to lis­ten to back then.”


David Strauss, Col­league

Many of us thought he would be a ter­rif­ic addi­tion to the fac­ul­ty, but we under­stood that he had oth­er plans,” explains David Strauss, Ger­ald Rat­ner Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Pro­fes­sor. “Although I don’t think any of us imag­ined that things would work out the way they did.” 

Dur­ing his tenure in the state sen­ate, Oba­ma con­tin­ued to teach at the Law School, some nights trav­el­ing straight up from evening ses­sions at the State House to his class­room.

But the stu­dents nev­er thought of him as a part-timer,” Strauss adds. “They just thought of him as a real­ly good teacher.” 

Pro­fes­sor David Strauss, the only teacher with high­er rat­ings than Oba­ma in his last year at the school, said, “The stu­dents thought he was great. He thought about things in uncon­ven­tion­al ways.”

Dou­glas Baird, Col­league

Dou­glas Baird, the Har­ry A. Bigelow Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Pro­fes­sor of Law and for­mer Dean, shared Cunningham’s con­cern that win­ning the seat was a long shot for Oba­ma. “I remem­ber hav­ing a cup of cof­fee with him when he said he was think­ing of run­ning for the U.S. Sen­ate, and I looked at him straight in the eye and said, ‘Don’t do it, you’re not going to win.’”

[Baird] remem­bers once ask­ing Oba­ma to assess poten­tial can­di­dates for gov­er­nor. “First of all, I’m not run­ning for gov­er­nor,” Oba­ma told him. “But if I did, I would expect you to sup­port me.”

Den­nis Hutchin­son, Col­league

Stand­ing in his favorite class­room in the aus­tere main build­ing, sharp-wit­ted stu­dents loom­ing above him, Oba­ma refined his pub­lic speak­ing style, his debat­ing abil­i­ties, his beliefs. “He test­ed his ideas in class­rooms,” said Den­nis Hutchin­son, a col­league. Every sem­i­nar hour brought a new round of “Is affir­ma­tive action jus­ti­fied? Under what cir­cum­stances?” as Hutchin­son put it.

Richard Epstein, Col­league

I don’t think any­thing that went on in these cham­bers affect­ed him,” said Richard Epstein, a lib­er­tar­i­an col­league who says he longed for Oba­ma to ven­ture beyond his ide­o­log­i­cal and top­i­cal com­fort zones. “His entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which he’s always been a thought­ful lis­ten­er and ques­tion­er, but he’s nev­er stepped up to the plate and tak­en full swings.”

Nor could his views be gleaned from schol­ar­ship; Oba­ma has nev­er pub­lished any. He was too busy, but also, Epstein believes, he was unwill­ing to put his name to any­thing that could haunt him polit­i­cal­ly, as Guinier’s writ­ings had hurt her. “He fig­ured out, you lay low,” Epstein said.

Epstein, who once almost sold his Hyde Park home to Oba­ma and would but­ton­hole him to talk about things like state man­dates for health insur­ance, offers one rea­son why: “He was always a ter­rif­ic lis­ten­er. He’d sit there and cock his head, take it all in.”

Of course, as Epstein points out, Oba­ma’s will­ing­ness to lis­ten did­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean he was will­ing to be con­vinced. “What you don’t get, alas and alack, out of all this is a change in point of view,” Epstein says. “If you ask me whether I had any influ­ence on his intel­lec­tu­al or moral devel­op­ment, I’d say no, not even a lit­tle.”

Abn­er Mik­va, Col­league

Oba­ma had oth­er busi­ness on his mind, embark­ing on five polit­i­cal races dur­ing his 12 years at the school. Teach­ing gave him sat­is­fac­tion, along with a perch and a pay­check, but he was impa­tient with aca­d­e­m­ic debates over “whether to drop a foot­note or not drop a foot­note,” said Abn­er Mik­va, a men­tor whose own career has spanned Con­gress, the fed­er­al court sys­tem and the same law school.

Cass Sun­stein, Col­league

Those are tremen­dous rat­ings, espe­cial­ly for some­one who had a day job,” Pro­fes­sor Cass Sun­stein said. “We want­ed him to join the fac­ul­ty full-time at var­i­ous dif­fer­ent junc­tures. That’s not a triv­ial fact.… If we want to hire some­one, the fac­ul­ty has to think they’re tremen­dous. But he liked polit­i­cal life.”

Daniel Fis­chel, For­mer Dean, UCLSTeaching

In the spring of 2000, not long after Barack Oba­ma was trounced in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry for a South Side Chica­go con­gres­sion­al seat, Daniel Fis­chel staged an inter­ven­tion. Meet­ing with Oba­ma in the main lounge at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Law School, where Fis­chel was then dean and Oba­ma was a part-time senior lec­tur­er, Fis­chel offered Oba­ma some unso­licit­ed advice. “I told him that it was obvi­ous his polit­i­cal career was going nowhere,” Fis­chel recalls, “and that he real­ly ought to think about doing some­thing else.”

The par­tic­u­lar “some­thing else” Fis­chel had in mind was a full-time tenured pro­fes­sor­ship; to sweet­en the offer, Fis­chel said the law school would even hire Oba­ma’s wife, Michelle, to run its legal clin­ic. Although the move would require Oba­ma to give up his state Sen­ate seat, Fis­chel tried to con­vince his junior col­league that Chica­go pro­fes­sor might be a more nat­ur­al role than Chica­go politi­cian for a cere­bral guy like him. “I men­tioned peo­ple who’d been fac­ul­ty mem­bers like [Antonin] Scalia and [Richard] Pos­ner and [Frank] East­er­brook and many oth­ers who had gone on to very dis­tin­guished careers out­side of acad­e­mia or in com­bi­na­tion with acad­e­mia,” Fis­chel says. “I told him he could be a fac­ul­ty mem­ber as well as a pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al.”

Oba­ma declined Fis­chel’s over­ture, say­ing that he want­ed to give elect­ed pol­i­tics anoth­er shot. 

What I know from my deal­ings with him at the law school is that he does real­ly attempt to under­stand the points of view of oth­er peo­ple who look at the world or a par­tic­u­lar issue dif­fer­ent­ly than he does,” says Fis­chel. “He’s much more intel­lec­tu­al, much more thought­ful, much more inter­est­ed in dis­cus­sion, debate, and dia­logue than the typ­i­cal politi­cian. And that gives me some con­fi­dence about him, even though from my per­spec­tive he’s much too lib­er­al. I’ve nev­er vot­ed for a Demo­c­rat in my entire life. He’s the first one I might vote for.”

Saul Lev­more, Cur­rent Dean, UCLS

Saul Lev­more, the school’s cur­rent dean, whose pol­i­tics are hard to char­ac­ter­ize but gen­er­al­ly right-lean­ing, says, “We were intense­ly inter­est­ed in him. We were look­ing for him to say, ‘I’m giv­ing up pol­i­tics, I want to be an aca­d­e­m­ic.’ We were always in recruit­ing mode with him.” 


Cook Coun­ty Project Vote 

VIDEOBarack Oba­ma and the His­to­ry of Project Vote

Project Vote Project Vote 2

Chica­go Mag­a­zine, Jan­u­ary 1993

The most effec­tive minor­i­ty vot­er reg­is­tra­tion dri­ve in mem­o­ry was the result of care­ful hand­i­work by Project Vote!, the local chap­ter of a not-for-prof­it nation­al orga­ni­za­tion. “It was the most effi­cient cam­paign I have seen in my 20 years in pol­i­tics,” says Sam Bur­rell, alder­man of the West Side’s 29th Ward and a vet­er­an of many reg­is­tra­tion dri­ves.

At the head of this effort was a lit­tle-known 31-year-old African-Amer­i­can lawyer, com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­er, and writer: Barack Oba­ma.…

Project Vote! is non­par­ti­san, strict­ly non­par­ti­san. But we do focus our efforts on minor­i­ty vot­ers, and on states where we can explain to them why their vote will mat­ter. [Car­ol Mose­ley] Braun made that eas­i­er in Illi­nois.” So [San­dyNew­man, founder of Project Vote] decid­ed to open a Cook Coun­ty Project Vote! office and went look­ing for some­one to head it.

The name Barack Oba­ma sur­faced. “I was ask­ing around among com­mu­ni­ty activists in Chica­go and around the coun­try, and they kept men­tion­ing him,” New­man says. Oba­ma by then was work­ing with church and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers on the West Side, and he was writ­ing a book that the pub­lish­er Simon & Schus­ter had con­tract­ed for while he was edi­tor of the law review. He was 30 years old.

When New­man called, Oba­ma agreed to put his oth­er work aside. “I’m still not quite sure why,” New­man says. ”This was not glam­orous, high-pay­ing work. But I am cer­tain­ly grate­ful. He did one hell of a job.”

… With­in a few months, Oba­ma, a tall, affa­ble worka­holic, had recruit­ed staff and vol­un­teers from black church­es, com­mu­ni­ty groups, and politi­cians. He helped train 700 deputy reg­is­trars, out of a total of 11,000 city­wide. And he began a sat­u­ra­tion media cam­paign with the help of black-owned Brain­storm Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. (The com­pa­ny’s pres­i­dent, Ter­ri Gard­ner, is the sis­ter of Gary Gard­ner, pres­i­dent of Soft Sheen Prod­ucts, Inc., which donat­ed thou­sands of dol­lars to Project Vot­ers efforts.) The group’s slogan-“It’s a Pow­er Thing”-was ubiq­ui­tous in African-Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hoods. Posters were put up. Black-ori­ent­ed radio sta­tions aired the group’s ads and announced where peo­ple could go to reg­is­ter. Minor­i­ty own­ers of McDon­ald’s restau­rants allowed reg­is­trars on site and donat­ed paid radio time to Project Vote! Labor unions pro­vid­ed fund­ing, as, in late fall, did the Clinton/Gore cam­paign, whose nation­al vot­er-reg­is­tra­tion dri­ve was being direct­ed by Chica­go alder­man Bob­by Rush.

It was over­whelm­ing,” says Joseph Gard­ner, a com­mis­sion­er of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Water Recla­ma­tion Dis­trict and the direc­tor of the steer­ing com­mit­tee for Project Vote! “The black com­mu­ni­ty in this city had not been so ener­gized and so sin­gle-mind­ed since Harold [Washington]died.”

…The suc­cess of the vot­er-reg­is­tra­tion dri­ve has marked [Oba­ma] as the polit­i­cal star the May­or should per­haps be watch­ing for. “The sky’s the lim­it for Barack,” says Bur­rell. 

Some of Daley’s clos­est advis­ers are sim­i­lar­ly impressed. “In its tech­ni­cal demands, a vot­er-reg­is­tra­tion dri­ve is not unlike a mini-polit­i­cal cam­paign,” says John Schmidt, chair­man of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Pier and Expo­si­tion Author­i­ty and a fundrais­er for Project Vote! “Barack ran this superbly. I have no doubt he could run an equal­ly good polit­i­cal cam­paign if that’s what he decid­ed to do next.”


The Woods Fund, Board of Direc­tors

Chica­go Read­er, 1995: What Makes Oba­ma Run?

Jean Rudd, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Woods Fund, is anoth­er per­son on guard against self-appoint­ed, self-pro­mot­ing com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers. She admires not only Oba­ma’s intel­li­gence but his hon­esty. “He is one of the most artic­u­late peo­ple I have ever met, but he does­n’t use his gift with lan­guage to pro­mote him­self. He uses it to clar­i­fy the dif­fi­cult job before him and before all of us. He’s not a pro­mot­er; from the very begin­ning, he always makes it clear what his dif­fi­cul­ties are. His hon­esty is refresh­ing.”

Woods was the first foun­da­tion to under­write Oba­ma’s work with [Devel­op­ing Com­mu­ni­ties Project]. Now that he’s on the Woods board, Rudd says, “He is among the most hard-nosed board mem­bers in want­i­ng to see results. He wants to see our grants make change happen—not just pay salaries.”




Illi­nois State Sen­ate

State Senate

April 2003 Video­tape inter­ro­ga­tions. Sen­ate Bill 15 (Oba­ma, D‑Chicago) is a bill that requires video­tap­ing of inter­ro­ga­tions in homi­cide inves­ti­ga­tions. Although it is a work-in-progress, there appears to be a con­sen­sus that some­thing close to Sen­ate Amend­ment No. 1 will be passed by the Gen­er­al Assem­bly. Sen­a­tor Oba­ma deserves much cred­it for clos­ing this deal.





Hyde Park













Pub­lished Author


Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

by Barack Oba­ma

Pub­lished July 18th 1995

In this lyri­cal, unsen­ti­men­tal, and com­pelling mem­oir, the son of a black African father and a white Amer­i­can moth­er search­es for a work­able mean­ing to his life as a black Amer­i­can. It begins in New York, where Barack Oba­ma learns that his father–a fig­ure he knows more as a myth than as a man–has been killed in a car acci­dent. This sud­den death inspires an emo­tion­al odyssey–first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migra­tion of his mother’s fam­i­ly to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his fam­i­ly, con­fronts the bit­ter truth of his father’s life, and at last rec­on­ciles his divid­ed inher­i­tance.


Gram­my Award for best spo­ken word album, 2005, for Dreams from My Father: A Sto­ry of Race and Inher­i­tance

British Book Awards, Biog­ra­phy of the Year 2009




Gram­my Award for best spo­ken word album (includes poet­ry, audio books, and sto­ry­telling), 2007, for The Audac­i­ty of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaim­ing the Amer­i­can Dream

British Book Awards, nom­i­nat­ed 2009

Dreams on TV

Con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous Sources

Chica­go Read­er: Decem­ber 07, 1995

What Makes Oba­ma Run? 

Lawyer, teacher, phil­an­thropist, and author Barack Oba­ma does­n’t need anoth­er career. But he’s enter­ing pol­i­tics to get­back to his true passion—community orga­ni­za­tion

When Barack Oba­ma returned to Chica­go in 1991 after three bril­liant years at Har­vard Law School, he did­n’t like what he saw. The for­mer com­mu­ni­ty activist, then 30, had come fresh from a term as pres­i­dent of the pres­ti­gious Har­vard Law Review, a posi­tion he was the first African-Amer­i­can to hold. Now he was ready to con­tin­ue his bat­tle to orga­nize Chicago’s black neigh­bor­hoods. But the state of the city mut­ed his exu­ber­ance.…

Today, after three years of law prac­tice and civic activism, Oba­ma has decid­ed to dive into elec­toral pol­i­tics. He is run­ning for the Illi­nois Sen­ate, he says, because he wants to help cre­ate jobs and a decent future for those embit­tered youth. But when he met with some vet­er­an politi­cians to tell them of his plans, the only jobs he says they want­ed to talk about were theirs and his. Oba­ma got all sorts of advice. Some of it per­plexed him; most of it annoyed him. One African-Amer­i­can elect­ed offi­cial sug­gest­ed that Oba­ma change his name, which he’d inher­it­ed from his late Kenyan father. Anoth­er told him to put a pic­ture of his light-bronze, boy­ish face on all his cam­paign mate­ri­als, “so peo­ple don’t see your name and think you’re some big dark guy.…

Chica­go Read­er: Novem­ber 13, 1997

Let­ter to the Edi­tor: Endors­ing the IVI-IPO

In the arti­cle appear­ing recent­ly in the Chica­go Read­er on the Inde­pen­dent Vot­ers of Illi­nois-Inde­pen­dent Precinct Orga­ni­za­tion [“Fight­ing Over Scraps,” Novem­ber 7], there were a num­ber of quotes attrib­uted to me that I feel need to be placed in the prop­er con­text.…

Barack Oba­ma
State Sen­a­tor
13th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict

Chica­go Read­er: March 16, 2000

Is Bob­by Rush in Trou­ble? 

Two for­mi­da­ble oppo­nents in the race for his con­gres­sion­al seat are bank­ing on it.

… Was this stomp­ing a sign that vot­ers are ready to end Rush’s career in Wash­ing­ton? State sen­a­tors Barack Oba­ma and Donne Trot­ter think so. Both men are anx­ious to move up to Con­gress, and they think 2000 is the year for the coup that will get them there. They’re work­ing hard to fin­ish off the polit­i­cal­ly wound­ed incum­bent.

Con­gress­man Rush exem­pli­fies a pol­i­tics that is reac­tive, that waits for crises to hap­pen then holds a press con­fer­ence, and has­n’t been par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive at build­ing broad-based coali­tions,” says Oba­ma, a Har­vard-edu­cat­ed lawyer who promis­es to be more effec­tive in coop­er­at­ing with whites and Lati­nos.

Jour­nal of Blacks in High­er Edu­ca­tion, Jan. 31, 2001

Barack Oba­ma

I had estab­lished a pres­ence in the class­room and in oth­er activ­i­ties dur­ing my first year of law school serv­ing as an edi­tor on the Har­vard Civ­il Rights-Civ­il Lib­er­ties Review, assist­ing sev­er­al pro­fes­sors on their schol­ar­ly work, and cam­paign­ing active­ly on issues of diver­si­ty in fac­ul­ty hir­ing. As a result, I think my peers and pro­fes­sors knew that I took my work at the law school seri­ous­ly and were less like­ly to ques­tion my qual­i­fi­ca­tions for a spot on the Review. More­over, by the time I was elect­ed to the pres­i­den­cy of the Review, the peers who vot­ed for me had worked with me in close quar­ters for over a year and were pret­ty famil­iar with my accom­plish­ments… I have no way of know­ing whether I was a ben­e­fi­cia­ry of affir­ma­tive action either in my admis­sion to Har­vard or my ini­tial elec­tion to the Review. If I was, then I cer­tain­ly am not ashamed of the fact, for I would argue that affir­ma­tive action is impor­tant pre­cise­ly because those who ben­e­fit typ­i­cal­ly rise to the chal­lenge when giv­en an oppor­tu­ni­ty. Per­sons out­side Har­vard may have per­ceived my elec­tion to the pres­i­den­cy of the Review as a con­se­quence of affir­ma­tive action, since they did not know me per­son­al­ly. At least one white friend of mine men­tioned that a fed­er­al appel­late court judge asked him dur­ing his clerk­ship whether I had been elect­ed on the mer­its. And the issue did come up among those who were mak­ing the hir­ing deci­sions at the [Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go] law school — some­thing that might not have even been raised with respect to a white for­mer pres­i­dent of the Review.

Falsehoods Unchallenged Only Fester and Grow