Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898 | SUBSCRIBE

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Barack Obama of Harvard Law School—and Beyond


During his student years at Harvard Law School, Barack Obama, J.D. '91, now president-elect of the United States, also came to the attention of the wider University community.

In 1990, he was elected president of the Harvard Law Review (as reported here from the Harvard Magazine account), the first African American to attain that position in the journal’s then 103-year-old history. The news made national headlines, as the Harvard Crimson reported in a detailed account.

In 1991, Obama agreed to run for the Board of Overseers as one of three petition candidates put forward by the group Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni/ae Against Apartheid, which was seeking to persuade the University to divest its holdings in firms doing business in South Africa. None of the three was elected. (Note the members of the complete slates, including such prominent figures as Steven Ballmer ’77, now CEO of Microsoft.)

Harvard Magazine covered his campaign for U.S. Senate from Illinois in mid 2004, when he ran against another Harvard Law School alumnus.

In more recent campus comments, the November 4 issue of the Crimson reported the Morning Prayers remarks of Loeb University Professor Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law scholar, bearing on the qualities of his former student. And one of the panels convened for Harvard Law School's capital-campaign celebration featured a discussion of potential changes in the Supreme Court's makeup, and the contentious issues it might face, during an Obama administration. And the law school published this write-up and collection of links concerning its newly famous alumnus.

Finally, with the votes tallied, it's time to revise the trivia manuals. Speaking at the Law School campaign celebration on October 23, Harvard President Drew Faust offered this bit of historical humor: “[I]t’s quite possible that 12 days from now, Rutherford B. Hayes may no longer be the only right answer to the trivia question, ‘What graduate of Harvard Law School was elected president of the United States?’” Occupying a whole new category of trivia, of course, is Michelle (Robinson) Obama, J.D. ’88.