A copy of Harvard Law School’s yearbook from 1991 — the year Barack Obama graduated — is for sale on eBay, and it provides an as-yet-unseen look into the future president’s views on the kind of “mean-spirited” campaign discourse that some Republicans say has characterized his own re-election campaign.
The seller, who first listed the item for sale July 17, provided scanned images of pages where Obama appeared, including his self-written “Student Profile.” In the essay, Obama mentioned “diversity” twice, including one mention of “faculty diversity,” a concept for which future first lady Michelle Obama — then Michelle Robinson — argued strongly in a 1988 Harvard Black Law Students Association (BLSA) essay. (RELATED: In Harvard essay, young Michelle Obama argued for race-based faculty hiring)
A note next to Barack Obama’s official yearbook photo also identifies him as a member of the BLSA.
His central message in 1991 concerned his desire for greater civility.
“After three years, I continue to be struck by the tremendous talent and energy among HLS students and faculty,” Obama wrote. “The diversity of campus life challenges all of us to question our assumptions, listen to other viewpoints, and articulate our values in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance.”
By contrast, Republicans both inside and outside of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney’s campaign have complained in recent weeks that the tone of Obama’s re-election effort has grown in coarseness and aggression.
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter accused Romney on July 12 of being either a liar or a felon, following the Boston Globe’s disclosure that Romney maintained legal title to Bain Capital well after his departure in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
Romney, Cutter said, was either “misrepresenting his position at Bain to the [Securities and Exchange Commission], which would be a felony… [or] he was lying to the American people.” (RELATED: Obama’s aides slam Romney as possible felon)
Obama essentially denied on Aug. 20 that Cutter’s accusation was a serious one, saying during a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room that “nobody accused Romney of being a felon.” (RELATED: Obama mangles Romney felony accusations)
In his 1991 essay, Obama also praised Harvard Law School for giving prominence to “public interest programs and faculty diversity,” and ended with a note signaling his awareness of his classmates’ “anxiety … about prospects for employment and economic security.”
“Periods of economic scarcity,” Obama wrote, “have a tendency to submerge our idealism, to sometimes make us a little more mean-spirited. I hope that our idealism — a hard-headed, unromantic idealism that does not expect change overnight — continues to motivate HLS students, and HLS as an institution.”
Another sample yearbook page provided by the owner shows a group photo of the Harvard Law School’s “HLS Democrats.” Obama is not among those pictured.
The yearbook is being offered for say as an eBay “buy it now” auction for $495. (UPDATE: The yearbook was sold 54 minutes after TheDC published this report.)
See the yearbook photos: