Wayne Allyn Root graduated Columbia, NYC in the same year and same class as Barack Obama in 1983. He says no one he knows, remembers Barack Obama from the graduating class. See a video below.
Root was a Libertarian vice-president candidate on Bob Barr’s ticket in the 2008 elections. This means he and Barack Obama were running on the same ticket at the same time. Root says he did not know Obama at Columbia although they were both on the same career path, Political Science and pre-law. On September 5, 2008, Reason’s Matt Welch and Tim Cavanaugh interviewed Root. At the time, candidate Root wanted Obama’s Columbia grade average released, as were G.W. Bush’s, John Kerry and Al Gore – not to mention overall intelligence. Welch asked this:
[Welch] So tell us what we should know about Barack Obama that we don’t?
[Root] I think the most dangerous thing you should know about Barack Obama is that I don’t know a single person at Columbia that knows him, and they all know me. I don’t have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia. Ever!
Welch, incredibly, says “yeah, but you were like selling, you know, Amway in college or something, werent’ you? Root replies: “And the best damned Amway salesman ever! The conversation moves to smoking pot in dorm rooms, before Root gets the conversation back to the fact that no one remembers Barack Obama:
[Root] Nobody recalls him. I’m not
exaggerating, I’m not kidding.
[Welch] Were you the exact same class?
[Root] Class of ’83 political science, pre-law Columbia University. You don’t get more exact than that. Never met
him in my life, don’t know anyone who ever met him. At the class
reunion, our 20th reunion five years ago, 20th reunion, who was
asked to be the speaker of the class? Me. No one ever
heard of Barack! Who was he, and five years ago, nobody
even knew who he was.
[Welch] Did he even show up to the reunion?
[Root] I don’t know! I didn’t know him. I don’t
think anybody knew him. But I know that the guy who writes the
class notes, who’s kind of the, as we say in New York, the
macha who knows everybody, has yet to find a person, a
human who ever met him. Is that not strange? It’s very strange.
I mean, when I went to
Columbia, the black kids were all at like tables going “Black
Power!” We used to walk by and go, “What the hell are they
talking about.” And they didn’t associate with us and we didn’t
associate with them. So if you track down a couple of black
students, they’ll probably know him. But nobody white’s ever heard
of this guy. It’s quite amazing. Nobody remembers him.
They don’t remember him sitting in class.
The Columbia Spectator, however, quotes a classmate. This from Michael Ackerman, a 1984 grad (the link to Ackerman may not be “the” Michael Akerman, although this shows him to be at Columbia from 1980-1984):
His political science classmate, Michael Ackerman, CC ’84, recalled him
as “almost chameleon-like, spy-like, slipped in and out. He tried to
keep to himself.”
A New York Sun article, linked below, quotes a Columbia spokesman:
A spokesman for the university, Brian Connolly, confirmed that Mr.
Obama spent two years at Columbia College and graduated in 1983 with a
major in political science. He did not receive honors, Mr. Connolly
said, though specific information on his grades is sealed. A program
from the 1983 graduation ceremony lists him as a graduate.
Then, there is the man who says he was Barack Obama’s roomate at Columbia, Phil Boerner, Class of ’84, who also says he knew Obama from their studies at Occidental College in Los Angeles:
At Oxy, we attended some of the same social events and had late-night
philosophical discussions related to our college reading or to current
affairs. We attended rallies on campus where we were urged to “draft
beer, not people,” and discussed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,
apartheid in South Africa, the hostages in Iran and the Contras in
The crowd we hung out with included men, women, blacks,
whites, Hispanics and international students. Barack listened carefully
to all points of view and he was funny, smart, thoughtful and
well-liked. It was easy to sit down with him and have a fun
In that apartment [at Columbia, while roomates] we hosted a number of visitors, mostly friends from
Oxy who stayed overnight when they were passing through town. Barack
was very generous to these visitors. As a host and roommate, he
sometimes did the shopping and cooked the chicken curry.
Through different living arrangements in Astoria, Queens; Bay Ridge,
Brooklyn; and all over Manhattan, we stayed in touch and remained
friends for the rest of our college years. He got to know my girlfriend
from Arkansas, who is now my wife. Since I last saw him in 1985, we
have exchanged a few letters and photos. He left for Chicago, and I
eventually settled in Sacramento.
The Reason conversation gets to the subject of grade averages and Root says this is the moral of the story:
I had a B-plus, A-minus average at Columbia
University, in four years. When I graduated, I took the LSATs and I
did well. I didn’t do great, I did well; B-plus, A-minus average.
My counselor at Columbia said don’t even bother applying to Harvard
Law School, because you can get into any law school in the country
with your record, except Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton
[Editor’s Note: Princeton doesn’t
have a law school]. Except for the very top, you can get in
anywhere, but don’t even try those, because your grades don’t cut
Well, everyone says how bright Barack is, but Barack won’t
release his transcripts from Columbia University.
And I’d be willing to bet every dime I
have in the world, a million dollars I’ll put, I’ll put a million
dollars cash on the fact—that my GPA was better than
Barack’s—…and he got in based on the color of
Does anyone doubt that possibly Barack could have gotten into
Harvard with a C average because he’s black, where as I, white,
couldn’t get into the same school with a B-plus, A-minus average?
And yet his wife says that America is a terrible nation unfair to
minorities! I say, Au contraire!
So now I ask out loud in the press, I challenge my classmate to
give his GPA against mine. And let’s see if he really is the bright
guy they all say he is. What if we discover he got into Harvard
with a C average? Is he then the brilliant man America thinks he
is? That would be a very good question, don’t you think?
I represent millions and millions of poor
people in this country who weren’t lucky enough to be poor and
black, they were unlucky enough to be poor and white, and they
can’t get into Harvard. So maybe that country Barack’s fighting
for, he’s got the wrong country here. He’s been just fine in this
country. The rest of us need someone to defend them….
From the New York Sun, about the same time as the Reason interview:
But one chapter of the tale remains a blank —
his education at Columbia College, a place he rarely speaks about and
where few people seem to remember him.
Contributing to the mystery is the fact that nobody knows just how
well Mr. Obama, unlike Senator McCain and most other major candidates
for the past two elections, performed as a student.
The Obama campaign has refused to release his college transcript, despite an academic career that led him to Harvard Law School
From Smith College professor, James Miller, who studies the effects of human intelligence on the economy:
Mr. Miller acknowledged that Mr. Obama displayed academic achievement
at Harvard, where he graduated magna cum laude and led the Harvard Law
Review. Still, Mr. Miller said, he would like to see information about
how Mr. Obama performed in various subjects at Columbia.
Note that on this site, Famous Columbians, Barack Obama’s name does not appear, even though there are categories for the Nobel Peace Prize and Writers. Maybe the webmaster isn’t updating.
At least we know that “few” remember Barack Obama. To be accurate, one person is on the record as remembering him as a “chameleon.” Just one man. A Columbia employee found Obama in a database, evidently. That’s it. Columbia University has a total of 205 students in their current Political Science program, which is 1 percent of enrollment. Columbia ranks 37th for “popular” schools with political science programs. How big could the class have been in 1983?
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