Point: I Totally Got Into Yale, but Chose Harvard



Folks, as you know, I carry a message of hope and change for this country. Now, some say that message can get a little, well, long-winded. To that I say: it needs to be. In order to face up to our problems, whether in the blue states or the red states, we need a president who will confront the complexity of the world around us, and who will not be afraid to say everything he needs to say. That president can’t stuff his soul into a soundbite of 250 words!

A little story: after my long twilight struggle against the forces arrayed against community organizing in inner city Chicago, I sat down to apply for law schools.

Adversity, however, soon struck: I was vexed by the essay word count limit set out against me by Yale. And yet, I went for it, because deep down I always kept one nugget of truth buried in my heart: Yes. I. Could.

And I did. When Yale’s dean called me on that fateful morning, the sun just peaking above the spires soaring high above the Windy City, I couldn’t help but crack a smile as he said “Barack, we just want you to know that when we admitted you to Yale, it wasn’t your perfect LSAT score, your sterling recommendations, or even how much your personal statement touched even the Ivory Tower’s coldest hearts. No, Barack, it was simply this: you wrote the most brilliant 250 word essay in Yale admissions history.”

Now, folks, I’m going to tell you the truth. I didn’t turn down such kind words, much like I turned down a job with a big law firm on Wall Street years down the road, because they offered to preserve my 250 words in pure Baltic Sea amber and store them in the radiation-proof Yale vault along with the Bush family collection of Skull & Bones capes. I turned down Yale because 250 words weren’t enough to express my passion for law school, just as three hours won’t be enough time for the speech I’m giving in a few hours. Folks, Harvard never asked me for a word limit. The essay I sent them went on to be published, not as one book, but two – Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope – not to mention my 3L paper and my first five, oops, er, four State of the Union addresses.

I’ll always be proud I chose Harvard over Yale. It’s produced advisors like the brilliant Samantha Power, who taught me everything I know about foreign policy. For example, she once told me we shouldn’t be worried about going after monsters abroad when they exist here at home. That’s the kind of sharp thinking that could only be honed on the amazing educational rigors of the curve!

My law school is also a place of abundance, just as America should be, from the free food and drink lining the halls to its divinely inspired Manifest Destiny to hire every noteworthy law professor in the country. It’s a place where change is actually made rather than talked about, from the Seminar on the Large Law Firm to the Colloquium on Hostile Takeovers.

Folks, going to Harvard Law was all about making the right choice – to have plenty of choices. In fact, it’s just like having me as president – you have no idea what I’ll be like, but at least it sounds good.


Senator Barack H. Obama, ’91, is a magna cum laude graduate and current presidential candidate.

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