HLS Professor Offers Look Into President Obama the Student

Members of the Harvard community are offered this week an intimate look into the life of the President of the United States, Barack Obama—or as Harvard Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree likes to call him, Barry.

“I am glad to have the chance to talk about the president and my friend,” said Ogletree, in the first of three lectures he will be giving on the current president’s life.

Ogletree, who taught Obama in law school, covered topics as diverse as the origin of Obama’s name to the president’s search for religion.

He told stories of Number 44’s childhood in Hawaii and his later years in college and law school.

“Obama was a combination of wit, organization, and luck,” Ogletree explained.


“One of his shortcomings is that he believed then, as he believes now, that he could bring everyone together.”

Race was a recurring theme of the professor’s talk.

Ogletree commented on Obama’s election as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.

“It changed his life, and in dramatic ways,” said Ogletree.

“He understood the conundrum of race.”

Ogletree also talked about mentoring Obama, and told a story of when Obama asked Ogletree for advice on what to do after graduating from Harvard Law School.

Ogletree said the young law student asked him whether he could make a real difference.

“I said: Barack, yes you can. He never did give me credit for that phrase,” Ogletree joked.

Ogletree also addressed some of the conspiracies surrounding Obama’s former and current life.

“Barack Obama was in fact born August 4, 1961, in Hawaii,” Ogletree explained.

“We have [Donald] Trump to thank for that.”

Ogletree will continue his lecture series on Obama today and tomorrow in the Thompson Room at the Barker Center.

In the next two talks, he will focus on Obama’s relationship with race and religion.