Barack Obama

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See also Wikipedia's article about "Barack Obama".

Barack Obama CC '83 is a US Senator from Illinois and a Democratic party candidate for the 2008 presidential election.

Many Columbia students are audaciously hoping he'll win his primary and the national election. If he does, he will not only be the first partially black president, but the first attendee of Columbia College, and the first graduate of any Columbia school[1], to occupy the Oval Office.

Obama, however, tends to forget/ignore his Columbia affiliation, preferring to mention that he attended Harvard Law School. He has repeatedly turned down requests to be the Class Day speaker in recent years, as well as general requests to appear from the College Democrats.

Columbia years

Obama the Columbia undergrad, visiting Central Park

Obama transferred to CC from Occidental College, where he'd been into partying. He hoped the move to New York, and Columbia, would put him on a more serious track.

While at Columbia, he lived off campus. He claims to have spent his first night sleeping in an alley near the corner of 109th and Amsterdam Avenue and washing with the homeless next to an open fire hydrant. He eventually moved into a walkup on E. 94th St., in East Harlem, where he would "chat with his Puerto Rican neighbors about...the sound of gunfire at night".

When he was on campus, he concentrated on academic work, spending most of his time in Butler Library "like a monk." He also took up jogging and "stopped getting high". The racist and anti-Semitic graffiti he sometimes encountered on bathroom walls on campus helped him form his ideas about race and class. He wrote of "the almost mathematical precision with which America’s race and class problems joined; the depth, the ferocity, of resulting tribal wars; the bile that flowed freely not just out on the streets but in the stalls of Columbia’s bathrooms as well".

Obama claims to have participated to some extent in anti-apartheid activities with the Black Students Organization.

He majored in PoliSci, and concentrated in International Relations. Sources differ on whether he wrote his senior thesis on Soviet nuclear disarmament[2] or the North-South debate on trade and the "new international economic order"[3]. Obama's professors and classmates, including former international politics professor Michael L. Baron and current MTV president Michael Wolf, confirm that he was a brilliant, standout student and that he was an active participant in seminars.

Later Columbia coincidences

In his primary fight to become the Democratic nominee, Obama has faced, among others, GS alum Mike Gravel. In the general election, he would face Wayne Allen Root, also CC'83, the presumptive Libertarian Party nominee. His Republican opponent would be John McCain, a former Class Day speaker whose daughter, Meghan McCain, was CC'07.


  1. Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt both attended Columbia Law School, but neither graduated, as you only needed to pass the bar after 2 years of school to practice law. One Roosevelt dropped out after passing the bar, the other after being elected to the NY State Assembly. Dwight Eisenhower never attended Columbia, but rather served as a somewhat absentee President of the University while biding his time to run for the Presidency.

External links