As he pursued a political science degree, specializing in international relations, Obama says he was somewhat involved with the Black Students Organization and participated in anti-apartheid activities.
On campus, even though more than a decade had passed, there were still bitter divisions that went back to the radical student protests of the late 1960s, when the issues included not only the Vietnam War but a land invasion of sorts much closer to home: Columbia's effort to expand east and north in Morningside Heights, displacing poor black and Hispanic tenants along the way. By the time Obama signed up as a political science major, there were still distinguished professors in his department so estranged as a result of those old political fights that they would stride past one another in the hallway without so much as making eye contact.
Obama's personal transformation at Occidental coincided with a larger hinge point in history from the end of one decade to the beginning of the next. He arrived when Jimmy Carter was president and left in the era of Ronald Reagan. During his first year in college, traumatic events cascaded one upon another: November brought the Iran hostage crisis; December saw the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; in January came word from President Carter that he was reinstituting registration for the military draft because of renewed cold war tensions with the Soviets; by March, Carter was announcing his final decision to boycott the summer Olympics in Moscow; and in April the Democratic president watched helplessly as a hostage rescue mission ended disastrously with a helicopter crash in the desert.
Now that the issue of the president’s birth certificate has been laid to rest (mostly), some conservatives are turning their attention to a new obsession: Barack Obama's college transcripts.
Last week, a website that already had offered a $10,000 reward for Obama's transcripts from Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School, increased the bounty to $20,000.
When they lived together, Mr. Boerner said he thought Mr. Obama wanted to be a writer, not a politician. Columbia recently tracked down, with the help of a graduate, one piece that Mr. Obama wrote in his senior year about two antiwar groups on campus for a now-defunct student periodical called “Sundial.’’
After two years at Occidental, Obama was ready for a change. He headed to New York City to attend Columbia University. He still hadn't chosen a major, and he still longed to be part of a community.
By the time the demonstration was over, Obama's euphoria had evaporated. He saw some white trustees watching them from inside the building, laughing. He worried that the protest and his own speech had been a childish farce.
In his sophomore year at Occidental, Obama had his first taste of public speaking. He became involved in what was a global struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.
And so, when I heard about a transfer program that Occidental had arranged with Columbia University, I'd been quick to apply.
I had graduated without mishap, was accepted into several respectable schools, and settled on Occidental College in Los Angeles mainly because I'd met a girl from Brentwood while she was vacationing in Hawaii with her family.