Ken Mack

(Text only) Harvard Law classmate Ken Mack recalls Obama's election to the Law Review, the Derrick Bell controversy, and the future president's love of basketball. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on June 13, 2012.

(Text only) Harvard Law classmate Ken Mack recalls Obama's election to the Law Review, the Derrick Bell controversy, and the future president's love of basketball. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on June 13, 2012.

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    The first time you see Barack Obama, your impression of this guy? What were the circumstances?

    Well, Barack and I were in the same class first year in law school, and so we probably met the first day of law school.

    I don't remember a moment of meeting, but I remember meeting him. He had this odd name, and he seemed a bit older than the rest of us. Very interesting, but we weren't sort of immediately bowled over by, "This guy is different from everybody." He seemed a little older, a little wiser, he had this odd name, and I knew he was from Chicago, and I liked him, and that was the first impression. And most of the rest of the things that make him interesting I learned later.

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    Harvard Law School
    At Harvard, a place of 'big ideas'

    Describe Harvard Law School at that time. ...

    It was sort of the big league. A lot of us had come from various colleges and careers. Some people had gone to Harvard College. I certainly hadn't; Obama hadn't.

    And this was someplace different. You met these people from all over the country. They were extremely bright, extremely ambitious, extremely smart. And it was a place to try to get your mind around and try to make an impression and try to chart your future. It was a place unlike anything I had ever experienced, and I think that was probably true for Obama as well.

    And what was happening there then?

    In the late 1980s when I started at law school, Harvard Law School was a place of big contending ideas, big arguments among the faculty, among the students. Everyone was organized; everyone argued; everyone fought over things. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It was a place where you got involved in things, and you had to take a position, and you got bombarded with ideas from various parts of the political spectrum. And that was sometimes uncomfortable, but often a lot of fun.

    What kind of things?

    Well, there was a big left/right argument going on at Harvard at that time. It's been stereotyped a little bit, but the left were the Critical Legal Studies and later Critical Race Theory, which was just getting going as an organized thing when I was in law school, which had a very unorthodox view of law and what law was doing in American life. The Crits [sic] thought that law was an instrument of oppression, and that's not what you learned in the mainstream law school curriculum.

    There were the liberals who were sort of fighting a kind of rearguard action, and then there were the conservatives who were articulate, small in number, but very much influenced by what was going on in the Reagan administration, influenced by people like [then-Attorney General] Edwin Meese.

    So you had these groups that were arguing about what was the nature of law and what was the nature of American society. Was American society, American law fundamentally unfair? Was it a system of oppression? Was it a system that was neutral? Was it a system that was fair and was creating wealth for everyone? We were arguing about that very intensely.

    And where were you?

    I was undecided, I think. I mean, I was probably on the liberal part of the spectrum, the left liberal part of the spectrum. I found what the Crits were saying to be really interesting. I found what the conservatives were saying to be really interesting. I had gone to engineering school before I came to Harvard, so I hadn't heard any of this, so it was just all a lot of fun.

    Where was Barack?

    Barack was I'd say a mainstream liberal, a mainstream Democrat, certainly was no Crit, but like a lot of people he was interested in what everybody had to say. He thought he could learn something from everybody, even people he disagreed with. And I think he was soaking it all up and trying to figure out where he stood on all of it, but I'd say he was a mainstream liberal.

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    Was it important? Did it increasingly become important over the three years to pick a side, to finally be identified with somebody? Or could you live like you did and he did in kind of in-between land?

    It was important to pick a side in law school. I think that the politics got very polarized. They were polarized among the student body. They were polarized on the Harvard Law Review when Barack and I were editors. And there was immense pressure to pick a side, to be involved in one side or another. Everyone wanted to put you into a camp. Were you on the left? Were you a liberal? Were you a conservative? And sometimes it was hard to stay out of the camps, because people constantly wanted to put you in them.

    How did the pressure work?

    Well, people argued, and they wanted to know where you stood. And if you didn't fit into one of the categories, people sort of discounted you a little bit. They really wanted you to fit. It was hard not to fit.

    And it was a place where you had to take your own counsel. I mean, people who you would respect immensely would identify with a particular political faction, and you would say: "This person is very bright, and certainly not an intellectually dishonest person, and that's what they believe. And I respect them, and I've got to take what they say seriously." ...

    And were there faculty members involved in these discussions, arguments, sides as well?

    The faculty members had their own discussions which were parallel to those taking place among the student body. The faculty was very divided at Harvard in that period, and there had been a well-publicized tenure denial of a Crit I think the year before we arrived. And the faculty was not happy with one another over what was happening, so their arguments, I think, were probably more intense than our arguments, because for them the perceived stakes were a lot higher.

  4. Ψ Share'When Barack spoke, people tended to listen'

    ... What kind of a student was Barack Obama?

    He was a very smart and diligent student, but not a nerd. He was well respected in class. When Barack spoke, people tended to listen. He always had something interesting to say. It was often different. It was often a bit more worldly, a bit more wise, for lack of a better word, than the arguments that most people had in the classroom. And the professors listened, too, I think professors who disagreed with him.

    One of our professors our first year was Mary Ann Glendon we had for property, who is now a very socially conservative person on many moral issues, and of course refused to attend the graduation ceremony at Notre Dame when Obama got an honorary degree. But 20 years ago Mary Ann was very interested in what Obama had to say in class, even though she is somebody who would be disagree with many of his own positions.

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    [While living in Chicago, Obama began to embrace his black identity, according to biographer David Maraniss.] Is he a real black guy when he gets to you and Harvard?

    Yeah. When I first met Barack, he just seemed like he was a black guy from Chicago with an odd name. All of the angst that he writes about, even in his own book, in Dreams From My Father, and that people have written about subsequently was not evident at all. He had this Midwestern accent which seemed to go with being from Chicago. It turns out it was because his mother is from Kansas. I had no idea he was from Hawaii, certainly had no idea he had been raised part of his childhood in Indonesia. These are things that you learned later on.

    You mean, but while he was in law school, you learned them?

    Yes.

    It wasn't like he kept them a secret.

    No. When I first met [him], the first few weeks or the first month I had no idea that he was from Hawaii or spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. I initially didn't even know that he was biracial. He just seemed like an African American guy from Chicago who was a little bit older than us and a little bit wiser. And it wasn't until you get to know him that all these layers began to unfold.

    You guys hit it off as friends almost right away?

    Yeah, we hit it off almost right away. We were in the same section. We both spoke a lot in class. We were both -- what would I say? -- confident in ourselves. We were probably a little competitive. And yeah, we were friends almost from the first day.

    Basketball enter your life with him?

    No. I was not a good basketball player, and to play with Barack you had to be a good basketball player. I have been on the court with him once, and that's about all.

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    Basketball: Playing to Win
    Playing basketball: 'Barack had game, and he was serious about it'

    ... Was basketball important as far as you could tell?

    Yeah, basketball was definitely important to Barack. He played a lot. The main gym at Harvard is called the MAC [Malkin Athletic Center], and students play, people from outside the university play, service workers at the university play, and the level of play at the main gym is pretty intense. And if you're going to go down there, you're going to run; you've got to have some game.

    And Barack had game, and he was serious about it. He did that regularly. And for most of us, we didn't have the game to go down there regularly or have the commitment to the game to go down there regularly.

    Is there a metaphor at all in basketball and Barack Obama at Harvard?

    I think Barack is a very competitive person. He was good at basketball, and he was very proud of that. Even though it was Harvard, you could find a lot of different kinds of people on the court. I think he liked that. He was the president of the Harvard Law Review, but he would go down to the gym, and he could run with people who were [not] students, service workers at the university, people from working-class backgrounds. I mean, I think he very much enjoyed those aspects of playing basketball.

    During those three years at the law school, did you see a trajectory, like an arc of development, of orientation, of him gathering and figuring stuff out and heading in another direction? ...

    No, I would not describe Barack's years in law school as an arc or as a development in a particular direction. He certainly got a lot of confidence out of the experience, coming here, and it's the big leagues, and he did really well. He was well respected not only intellectually but as a leader on campus. It certainly gave him the confidence that he was going to go back to Chicago and really do something to impact his world. But I don't think he changed much in law school. I don't think he reoriented himself or redirected himself in any way.

    I think he arrived thinking that he was going to go back to Chicago when he was done. He soaked up the experience. He thought about many things he could do when he was finished. And ultimately he went back to Chicago. ...

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    Obama's Ambition

    We talked to Laurence Tribe yesterday, and he tells the story of this young skinny guy in Levi's and a bomber jacket showing up at his door, and they spend a few hours, literally hours that first time walking through the constitutional law stuff. ... Is that a fairly typical interaction that he had with Tribe, or was it your sense that there was a sort of special thing going on there?

    I think with Barack and Tribe there was something special going on. I mean, first, Barack was a first-year student. 1Ls, as far as I knew, didn't work for Larry Tribe. He wouldn't hire you. And at some point in our first year, we heard that Barack and his friend Robert Fisher were working for Larry. And people were like: "Wow, that's very interesting. I didn't know that Larry hired 1Ls. He must see something really interesting in this guy." So I think the interaction between Barack and Larry was something special from the beginning. I think Larry saw something that really impressed him.

    What can you imagine it was?

    Barack was very well read in the world. He was intellectually well read, but I think well read in the sense of having a lot of different experiences.

    So when you talked about, I don't know, free speech or affirmative action or the things that we argued about in law school, he is somebody who could think about it on the more philosophical level, he could think about it on the legal level, and he could tell you some stories about how it worked for him out in the real world. And there weren't a lot of people who could put all those three things together. So you always got something out of the conversation with him on just about any topic.

    And who was Larry Tribe? For people who watch this film and don't know the importance or whatever of Larry Tribe saying, "OK, you can work for me," what was the meaning of that?

    Larry Tribe, when we were in law school, was, of course, the most important constitutional law professor in the country, probably the most important constitutional legal theorist of his generation. He was a singularly impressive person on campus.

    So, for instance, after law school, many people go clerk for a prestigious judge as a way of getting a little experience or getting a little bit of prestige or a little bit of both. There was always something called the Tribe clerkship, meaning after law school you could go work for Larry for a year, and that was regarded as just like clerking for a big-name judge. He was that prestigious.

    So for Barack Obama to get a gig with him early and to take long walks along the Charles with him is something special.

    Yeah, it was definitely something special. I mean, people understood that this was different, that this didn't happen to first-year students, and that Barack was clearly somebody who was singularly impressive, impressive enough to impress one of the greatest legal minds of his generation.

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    Defending a controversial professor

    Tell me about the Derrick Bell issue. What was the matter?

    In the late 1980s there were a lot of protests about faculty diversity, not only at Harvard Law School but all over the country. I mean, students were demanding that faculties become more diverse, and they weren't.

    Harvard, like many universities, hired its faculty through a kind of time, tried-and-true method, and maybe a little bit of an old-boy network, although the faculty didn't call it that way. And a lot of people found themselves excluded from that. And Derrick Bell was one of the people who began to say this very forcefully at Harvard Law School and to get some people to begin to listen. And the students were very energized about the topic.

    Derrick Bell was a faculty member. Tell me who Derrick Bell was.

    Derrick Bell was the first African American professor to be hired and tenured at Harvard Law School, and he was an outsider. And even in 1988 when I arrived and he had been on the faculty almost two decades, he was still an outsider. He had gone to the University of Pittsburgh, which you didn't go to if you were going to be hired on the Harvard Law School faculty. He had been a civil rights lawyer, which again, you didn't do. He had done very, very well in law school, but he hadn't clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court. And he was doing this scholarship that was different, that was different in its style, that was different in its conclusions. He was very much an outsider, but students liked him.

    He was a kind of in-your-face guy. He was just very strongly principled and kind of quietly in overtime kept pushing an issue and pushing an issue until he was heard.

    And was there anything at stake for him personally in the Derrick Bell issue? ...

    I think two things. Derrick Bell wasn't just arguing about faculty diversity. He was arguing about how should we hire faculty members, what particular skills are valued among a faculty member, what does one have to do to get hired at Harvard Law School? And at the time when I started law school, it was still the case that to become a professor at Harvard, you usually had to go to Harvard or perhaps Yale, and you had to get good grades, and you clerked for the Supreme Court, and you were friends with some faculty members, and at some point you were brought back.

    But there was no evidence that you would be a good scholar. You had been a good student, but if you wanted to be hired by the economics department, you had to show that you could do some economics scholarship. So one of Derrick's arguments was that we were hiring faculty actually not based on method but through this sort of old-boy network that excluded many minorities and women from the hiring process, and that in order to hire more minorities and women, we had to think about how we hired faculty members.

    And I can just well imagine what a subtle and powerful assault that was on the conventional wisdom among the faculty.

    Yeah. In many ways, the faculty has moved not so much in terms of diversity, a little bit, but certainly in terms of hiring in the direction that Derrick Bell wanted. I mean, now you cannot get a job at Harvard Law School or any of the top law schools unless you have already produced scholarship. That wasn't the case 20 years ago. And that was Derrick's position that there were a number of minorities and women of color out there who were producing good scholarship, but couldn't get hired at a place like Harvard Law School, because they hadn't gone through the particular networks that resulted in you getting a job at Harvard.

    Was it a sort of polarizing issue among the students? ...

    I think when Derrick Bell started to push it, it wasn't so polarizing. People agreed, people disagreed, but in the late '80s it was a national issue.

    There were protests. There was a protest in the spring of 1989. There was a protest in the spring of 1990. Every spring there would be a protest about faculty diversity. And it was perceived among the student body that the faculty were not listening.

    So we had a new dean at the law school at the time, the dean was a conservative, so the students who were pushing the diversity issue were somewhat distrustful of the new dean and his commitment to faculty diversity.

    So I think over the course of the three years I was in law school, it didn't begin as a sort of polarizing thing, but it became that very, very quickly.

    And how did Barack navigate that?

    Like me, he was on the Law Review, so neither of us were at the center of the faculty diversity protests. My second year in law school, you worked 40 hours a week as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, then you've got to do your schoolwork, and then if you had any time maybe you would try to rest.

    So Barack wasn't really at the center of it, but I think no one really expected him to be. I mean, he was on the Law Review. He was elected president of the Law Review, and that in and of itself people thought was a statement about diversity.

    So he wasn't at the center of it, but everyone understood him to be someone who felt that the faculty should diversify itself a bit more, that he agreed with the objectives if not always the tactics of the diversity protesters. ...

    Does it mean anything that [Obama] spoke at the rally? Would it mean anything to other students that he spoke at the rally? I mean, did it have a kind of independent power of its own, or was he just another guy who grabbed the mic?

    No, I think it meant a great deal to the students and the diversity movement, and the students who were not in the movement who may sympathize with the objectives but maybe not with the tactics, that Barack spoke at the diversity rally.

    It meant that this was an issue that should be taken seriously, that we should find a way to move forward on it; we should find some kind of common ground. He was somebody for whom there was immense respect in the campus at that time, this respect that really crossed political lines. So it meant a great deal that he spoke at the rally.

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    Where does that respect come from? How did he earn it?

    I think in part Barack earns respect by his willingness to listen. He was always somebody who one could talk to.

    For instance, when we were on the Harvard Law Review, there was a left, there was a center, and there was a right. The people on the right really liked Barack. They liked him personally; they liked him politically, even though they recognized him as a sort of liberal mainstream Democrat, because he is somebody who talked to them, and they felt like he would listen. Even if at the end of the day he disagreed, they thought that he treated them with respect, and they thought that many of the liberal and left students did not. And I think that was part of the source of the immense respect that there was for Barack on campus.

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    Harvard Law SchoolObama and Race
    Obama is elected president of the Harvard Law Review

    ... What did you think when he won the presidency of the Law Review? And what did you think the implications of that were for the Law Review?

    I thought it was a big breakthrough. For a lack of a better word, Harvard Law School, the Harvard Law Review, these were very hierarchical institutions at the time. They changed very slowly. They were not that responsive to let's say new inputs. There had not been very many black editors of the Harvard Law Review. There were kind of a few every year who made it. There had only been a few black officers of the Law Review.

    And for an institution that changed so slowly, it was so representative of the long traditions of the law school to have an African American president. That was just this immensely powerful symbolic breakthrough. I thought that the stakes were very high. It was all about what message is the Harvard Law Review or the Harvard Law School sending out to the rest of the world or to the student body about its inclusiveness, about who belongs and who doesn't belong?

    Did he feel that?

    Yeah, I think he felt the immense symbolism of being elected president of the Harvard Law Review. I mean, I think it was both great and sometimes uncomfortable.

    People would project all these things on to him. People would write him letters from all over the country about this moment and about how meaningful it was to him. And sometimes it was maybe a little bit too much.

    But I think he also understood how important it was symbolically to many, many people, even outside the bounds of Harvard or outside the bounds of the Ivy League who just took this as a symbol that the country could change.

    I talked to Brad Berenson about what it meant to be on the Review with him and how he was appointed and I think surprised that he and some of the other Federalist Society guys were picked. Were you surprised that they were picked?

    No, I wasn't surprised that there were a number of Federalists as officers of the Harvard Law Review after Barack became president. Now, the selection process for officers was very complicated, so some people were elected directly and then other people were sort of elected, but then Barack had some discretion to choose. So part of it was just kind of how the process shook itself out without regard to Barack's input.

    But I think I wasn't surprised. I mean, I think Barack was always very inclusive in the way he thought about the world. He would want input from conservatives into the Law Review's policy. He would want to be talking to them. And he would want everybody to feel like that they were part of the institution and that everybody had a stake. So no, I don't think I was surprised at that. ...

    One of the things that we wrestle with when we try to think about how to think about him in this film is if you think about that period where there is a lot of integration of himself and his past, and all the things -- Grandma or Grandpa, everybody, Kansas, Kenya. By the time he gets there, I think he realized, especially through Chicago, from the stories people tell us, he begins to realize that he is a bit of a person people project their own aspirations onto.

    If you're African American you may say, "He's one of us." If you're a certain other kind of person you may, you say: "Hey, he's going to carry our water for us. Hey, he believes this. Hey, he believes that." It appears he begins to form a kind of idea that if he can figure out the world and he can figure out who he is in a very complicated world set of circumstances that he grew up in, the world can be sort of bipartisan or everybody can kind of get along or everybody can sort things out, because if he can sort out his complicated past, we can all sort out our institutional problems and all kinds of other things. ...

    Did you see any of that happening? And do you agree with the proposition?

    Yeah, I think mostly.

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    Obama as a Leader

    I'd say that by the time I met him in 1988 he clearly saw himself as a kind of bridge builder, that people who really disagreed with one another could talk to him even if they couldn't talk to each other, and that that was a good thing, because at the end of the day we weren't all going to agree on how to solve something. We were in law school. We weren't all going to agree on what should free speech doctrine be doing. We weren't all going to agree on affirmative action. But we could all agree that we should be talking to one another and that there were certain things we could agree on.

    And I think he very much saw himself as somebody who facilitated those kinds of conversations, and if you could facilitate those kinds of conversations, you could make the world a better place.

    Were there times he couldn't be the bridge? Were there issues it didn't work with? Were there kinds of people who didn't buy the Obama bridge builder?

    Yeah, I think that there were always people who didn't buy the bridge-builder idea. People who tended to be more extreme in their politics didn't buy it. It was something that appealed to people who at least had the potential to compromise or to want to talk to people who disagreed with them. But again, in the late '80s, Harvard Law School was a very polarized place. There were many people who thought that if you disagree with us, we are the side of good and you are the side of evil. And those kinds of people were not at all convinced and not at all sympathetic to Barack Obama. ...

    Did you ever push back from the table at Grendel's or wherever you were eating and say, "Future president of the United States"?

    No. I think I never said, "Future president of the United States," but I thought that he would at the very least be a United States senator from Illinois. You could see it. You could see the gravitas; you could see the charisma; you could see the effect that he had on the people around him. And he never talked about going into politics, but if you knew Barack, you could see that this is a guy who would be inexorably drawn into politics and would do really well at it. ...

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    Barack and Michelle

    He comes back from the summer of 1L I think with Michelle Robinson in his life. Did you know about that?

    Yeah, I knew about that. I don't know exactly when I found out about Michelle, but it was early in the fall semester of our second year I found out he was dating Michelle, and she worked at Sidley Austin [law firm]. And all of his friends were very happy that Barack had found someone. And we didn't know her, because she wasn't on campus. Some of the students who were ahead of me in law school knew her, because she had just graduated. But from all accounts she was a very serious and wonderful person, and we were happy for Barack.

    Did you see any change in him after Michelle entered his life, even in a long-distance kind of way?

    No, I don't think I saw any change in him. We just knew he had a girlfriend out in Chicago, and he would fly out there every now and then, or she would fly here. But no, he wasn't kind of walking around with his head in the clouds, "I'm in love." He may have been, right, but no, you couldn't quite see that.

    It's not his way, though, is it? He's not Gene Kelly dancing in rain or anything because he's thrilled that he's in love.

    Yeah, but I think he has his own moments where you can see that he's really excited about something. But yes, he just seemed older than us, too. I mean, if he was in love, it was going to be in the way that Barack is going to be in love. It's not going to be the way that some young 24-year-old law student who thinks that they have just met the love of their life and they're going to be broken up six months later would think that they were in love. So he was a different kind of guy. ...

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    Obama as a Leader

    You know, they talk about him as president that he's not, and as a senator and as a state senator, he was not a backslapping kind of politician. He was not a guy who said, "Come on, let's grab a beer and work this out"; that he is introverted, kind of shy, standoffish, wants to spend his time with Michelle and the kids and a few close friends, but is not a guy who is like Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton out there in your face, pumping your arm and rubbing your head or something, right?

    Yeah, I don't know if I would use the word "introverted." I think he has always loved to have a great conversation with people. He loved to talk to people. But I would say he's not somebody who wants to go out and work a crowd. When he talks to people, he wants to really have meaningful conversations. He's not one for a lot of small talk. And yeah, there are probably things that certain politicians do that he doesn't do so well. I mean, small talk isn't really his thing. Idle chitchat isn't really his thing.

    But he loves to meet people and he loves to talk to them. Somebody who comes from a really different walk of life, he very much enjoys that. ...

    Did he have close friends, you and a handful or you and a lot of other people, or was he one of those guys everybody kind of knew, but he didn't hang with a large group? It was a closer, smaller group?

    Yeah, I think there was a closer, smaller group. They were close, close friends who he still has who were not really people who were law students on campus, and then there were a bunch of us who he was pretty close to among the law school student body. And I think that was myself, Cassandra Butts, Robert Fisher. I think those would probably be the three.

    But yeah, he knew a lot of people, but he wasn't really close friends with a lot of people. I mean, there was maybe three or four of us among the law school student body who he was close friends with, and he had a few other really close friends who were not law students, and that was kind of it. ...

    Is he one of those guys who -- there are people like this, who they're like, they know you, you're really close friends, they move on, you're gone? Next. Is that the way he is? Is that the way he was with all of you guys, or did you stay tight? I mean, I know it's been a long time.

    Yeah. I mean, we stayed friends. We inevitably weren't as friendly. I mean, he was in Chicago, and I was on the East Coast. But I think Barack was a person where if you were close friends with him, that bond did endure. Even if he didn't see you in years, you were still friends. I remember one time I was in Chicago for a conference in 1999, and I hadn't seen him at that point for three years or four years or something like that. I called him up, and he drove downtown, and we hung out for a couple hours, and it was like we had never missed a beat. We were still friends. And I think that's kind of how he was.

    You didn't keep up the same way you did when you saw each other in class every day, but when you saw one another, there was still that bond of friendship that was there. ...

    Have you seen him since he's president?

    Yeah, I've seen him from time to time.

    And how does it go?

    Pretty good. I think he loves seeing his old friends. He might be president of the United States, and that's a crazy job, but he still loves his connections to the past, the things that keep him grounded. And you see him now, and he may only have a few minutes, because he is president of the United States, but ask about the kids and you see something there that's really genuine. It's not just a politician. It's just Barack. It's just kind of incredible, because he's president of the United States. ...

    To some extent, he is seen as a polarizing figure at this point.

    Yes. I think almost the oddest thing about Barack Obama as president is that the narrative of his opponents is that he is a polarizing figure, and of course that's not the narrative of his entire life. His entire life, his entire professional life prior to becoming president was that he was this figure who was different and who got the respect of people in different camps. And it's very incongruous that somehow his opponents see him as this person who has had this radical agenda when that's basically not who he is.

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    'He wanted to be the adult in the room'

    You said about him coming back to campus with Michelle that he wasn't head in the clouds, but that he did have his own moments when you could see he was excited about something. I just wonder what one of those moments were and if the Law Review, getting the presidency, or if there is a moment that you can reflect on.

    Barack was somebody who, when everybody else got excited about something, he wanted to be the adult in the room. He didn't want to be giddy about something. He wanted to be happy, but just say, "OK, there are reasons to be happy about this, and there are reasons not to overblow it." And I think he made a conscious effort to do that.

    Now, I don't know, getting elected president of the Harvard Law Review, he was clearly over the moon, but he was going to be temperate about it, because that's kind of who he was. And he also didn't want people to think that, OK, this is somehow going to change society or change Harvard as an institution. It was a symbolic thing, and he would be the first person to say that. And he didn't want people to kind of get ahead of the game and project more onto it than it deserved. But underneath it all he was giddy, and you knew it, even though he was [not] going to trip the light fantastic or do something kind of silly.

    So there were moments where he would let his hair down, but I think for the most part he really wanted to be the adult in the room, the one who wanted to say, "This particular thing, yeah, it's great, but let's not get ahead of ourselves." ...

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