In today's New York Times, Jodi Kantor profiles Barack Obama's days as a Harvard Law School student. (I guess today is my Write About Harvard People Day -- appropriate, given that I'm currently working out of Cambridge, MA.)
The peers who elected Barack Obama as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review say he was a natural leader, an impressive student, a nice guy.
. . . .
He proved deft at navigating an institution scorched with ideological battles, many of which revolved around race. He developed a leadership style based more on furthering consensus than on imposing his own ideas. Surrounded by students who enjoyed the sound of their own voices, Mr. Obama cast himself as an eager listener, sometimes giving warring classmates the impression that he agreed with all of them at once.
. . . .
Many of his former professors and classmates say they are cheering on Mr. Obama, 45, in his candidacy. But the skills he displayed in law school may not serve him as well in American presidential politics, which sometimes rewards other qualities — like delivering sound bites instead of deliberateness or fidelity to a base of supporters instead of compromise.
. . . .
Along with 40-odd classmates, he won a precious spot on the law review at the end of his first year through grades and a writing competition.... "Whatever his politics, we felt he would give us a fair shake," said Bradford Berenson, a former associate White House counsel in the Bush administration.... "I have worked in the Supreme Court and the White House and I never saw politics as bitter as at Harvard Law Review in the early '90s," Mr. Berenson said. "The law school was populated by a bunch of would-be Daniel Websters harnessed to extreme political ideologies." They were so ardent that they would boo and hiss one another in class.
The article goes on to discuss the racial politics Obama navigated at HLS. Fascinating reading.