“He was different from other professors at Chicago,” former Obama student Daniel Sokol told David Remnick, author of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.”
“A lot of the faculty was heavily Socratic in method, even in upper-level courses. Obama was demanding with questions, but he wouldn’t just stick on one student. It was a small seminar.”
It’s unclear how much of Obama’s views from a decade or more ago influence his conduct in office. None of the Obama students identified in the book discussed on the record what Obama taught or discussed in class.
But Obama’s views on the material he was teaching did leak out on occasion. Remnick quoted an unnamed former law student who said Obama supported racial reparations in theory, but found it unworkable in practice.
“He told us what he thought about reparations. He agreed entirely with the theory of reparations. But in practice he didn’t think it was really workable,” the former student said. “You could tell he thought he had let the cat out of the bag and felt uncomfortable.”
“To agree with reparations in theory,” the student continued, “means we go past apology and can actually change the dynamics of the country based on other situations where you saw reparations … As the complexities emerged — who is black, how far back do you go, what about recent immigrants still feeling racism, do they have a claim — finally, he [Obama] said, ‘That is why it’s unworkable.’”