Chicago Mag (1993): In the final, climactic build-up to November’s general election … the number of new voter registrations hit an all-time high. And the majority of those new voters were black. More than 150,000 new African-American voters were added to the city’s rolls….
…At the head of this effort was a little-known 31-year-old African-American lawyer, community organizer, and writer: Barack Obama.
… By 1991, when Obama, law degree in hand, returned to Chicago to work on a book about race relations – having turned his back on the Supreme Court clerkship that is almost a given for the law review’s top editor – black voter registration and turnout in the city were at their lowest points since record keeping began … Six months after he took the helm of Chicago’s Project Vote!, those conditions had been reversed.
…Within a few months, Obama, a tall, affable workaholic, had recruited staff and volunteers from black churches, community groups, and politicians. He helped train 700 deputy registrars, out of a total of 11,000 citywide. And he began a saturation media campaign with the help of black-owned Brainstorm Communications…
….The success of the voter-registration drive has marked Obama as the political star the Mayor should perhaps be watching for. “The sky’s the limit for Barack,” says Burrell.
Some of Daley’s closest advisers are similarly impressed. “In its technical demands, a voter-registration drive is not unlike a mini-political campaign,” says John Schmidt. “Barack ran this superbly. I have no doubt he could run an equally good political campaign if that’s what he decided to do next.”
Obama shrugs off the possibility of running for office. “Who knows?” he says. “But probably not immediately.” He smiles.
“Was that a sufficiently politic ‘maybe’? My sincere answer is, I’ll run if I feel I can accomplish more that way than agitating from the outside. I don’t know if that’s true right now. Let’s wait and see what happens in 1993….”
LA Times (March, 1990): Barack Obama stares silently at a wall of fading black-and-white photographs in the muggy second-floor offices of the Harvard Law Review. He lingers over one row of solemn faces, his predecessors of 40 years ago. All are men. All are dressed in dark-colored suits and ties. All are white.
It is a sobering moment for Obama, 28, who in February became the first black to be elected president in the 102-year history of the prestigious student-run law journal.
The post, considered the highest honor a student can attain at Harvard Law School, almost always leads to a coveted clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court after graduation and a lucrative offer from the law firm of one’s choice.
Yet Obama, who has gone deep into debt to meet the $25,000-a-year cost of a Harvard Law School education, has left many in disbelief by asserting that he wants neither.
“One of the luxuries of going to Harvard Law School is it means you can take risks in your life,” Obama said recently. “You can try to do things to improve society and still land on your feet. That’s what a Harvard education should buy – enough confidence and security to pursue your dreams and give something back.”
After graduation next year, Obama says he probably will spend two years at a corporate law firm, then look for community work. Down the road, he plans to run for public office…..
Vanity Fair (June 1990): The new president of the Harvard Law Review was somewhat taken aback by the deluge of media coverage that followed hard on the heels of his election. The New York Times ran a “First Black” headline, which probably won’t be the last time that label is affixed to Barack Obama.
The twenty-eight-year-old law student says he wasn’t going to run for the office until a black friend talked him into it. “There’s a door to kick down,” the friend argued, “and you’re in a position to kick it down.”
The job does give him a great forum, but there’s a trade-off. “I like to read novels, listen to Miles Davis,” he says. “I don’t get to do that anymore. I don’t get dates anymore.” Still, he’s philosophical, even briskly cheerful, about his lost leisure….
…..he responds warily to the assumption that he himself will run for office. “If I go into politics it should grow out of work I’ve done on the local level, not because I’m some media creation.” Though, as media creations go, he’d be a pretty good one.