Obama mentor promotes candidate

by Vera Bergengruen | 11/14/07 2:14am

Twenty Dartmouth students and members of the Upper Valley had their questions about Barack Obama and his campaign answered by Laurence Tribe in the Howe library on Tuesday afternoon. Tribe, a renowned constitutional law expert and professor at Harvard Law School, screened a "Meet Barack" DVD with the group in an event organized by the New Hampshire chapter of Obama for America.

Tribe, who has argued before the Supreme Court 36 times and is the author of the most frequently cited treatise in the field, went on to share his own personal experience with Obama.

As Obama's former professor, Tribe shared his observations of Obama, as a student and research assistant at Harvard.

"From the beginning he demonstrated the most impressive intellect and charisma," he said. "He would only talk when he had something insightful to say; he would not speak to hear himself speak."

Tribe said that he recognized the qualities of a great leader in Obama, stating that Obama was brilliant, charismatic and had the ability to translate abstract intellectual ideas into terms everyone can understand.

Tribe told the group that he went home one night and told his wife that "we might be dealing with a future United States president here." He added that "You might think that teaching what I do I would say that often, but it was the only time."

Tribe spent much of the time answering questions that ranged from abortion to the Constitution to terrorism. Responding to the concerns of one Hanover resident about Obama's stance towards not only global warming, but also other ecological issues like animal extinction, Tribe replied "While he is maybe not as attuned as Al Gore, he is deeply immersed in these very important issues," and emphasized that Obama may be able to respond to these issues "in ways the other candidates can't."

A few audience members declared that they did not lean towards Obama as much as they are leaning away from Hillary Clinton. Some members of the audience asked Tribe for arguments to present family members and friends as to why Obama is a better choice than Clinton.

Tribe said that while he has nothing against Clinton, he said he believes Obama is simply a better candidate.

"If Clinton wins, I'll work hard for her. It's so much more important to elect a Democrat."

The same theme came up when an audience member expressed concern about the recent "battering" the Constitution has taken. Tribe said that Obama treats the Constitution "not as a nuisance but as a living document," and that if he is elected there will be "most dramatic changes, and the constitution will be restored to a place of honor."

"That's what makes us unique, we don't just talk the talk but we walk the walk and want to restore an effective Constitution," he added. "This will be harder to do with a Republican president."

The over-arching theme of the discussion seemed to be Obama's accessibility. Audience members seemed to agree with Tribe that Obama "wants to bring the country together," saying that he will "reinvigorate democracy" and that "he can relate to everyone."

Much emphasis was placed on the diversity and internationality Obama embodies, as Tribe mentioned that he was born in Hawaii, his father is Kenyan and he has a half Indonesian sister.

"He's very inspiring" Robert Strauss, a Hanover resident, said after the discussion. "Barack Obama is somebody who can change the course of the country, and he has the persona to take it in a new direction."

The film shown at the event began with an excerpt of Obama's keynote address at the July 2004 Democratic convention and featured footage and comments from a varied group, including his wife, college students and various senators. The audience was given pamphlets that reflected the general spirit of the campaign; "Barack Obama: The Experience America Needs" and "Change we Can Believe In" were some of the slogans.