Though Obama didn’t blow anyone away during his two undergrad years at Columbia, he made history at Harvard Law School. He arrived there in 1988, at 27 years old, after working for four years as a community organizer in Chicago. He became a research assistant to Laurence Tribe, a renowned professor working on an article applying physics to the law. (Title: “The Curvature of Constitutional Space: What Lawyers Can Learn From Modern Physics.”) By the end of his first year, Obama had won a position on the Harvard Law Review, widely considered the most influential and prestigious law publication in the nation. In 1990, Obama earned national recognition for the first time when he was elected the Review’s first black president. Obama graduated magna cum laude and moved back to Chicago to direct Project Vote, a grassroots voter-registration program. “I thought … his talents are such that there’s no ceiling to what he could achieve — and that included becoming president of the United States,” Tribe told New York. “He’s the only student about whom I’ve ever had that thought.”
Romney: A Supreme Court Connection
Following Brigham Young University, Romney enrolled in a joint program at Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School — law because his father nearly demanded it, and business because Romney already knew where his true passion lay. Romney would bring a little memento of his father to virtually every class he would take at Harvard for the next several years: a 40-year-old beat-up briefcase, stenciled in gold with the still-visible initials of George Romney. At law school, he graduated cum laude, doing quite well with one particularly prominent professor: Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who taught Romney antitrust law. “[He was] very engaged with his students,” Romney says in A Mormon in the White House, “and enjoyed the give and take.” But it was business school where he pushed ahead of the pack, graduating in the top 5 percent of his class. Among his best friends at the time was fellow classmate Susan Roosevelt, great-granddaughter to President Teddy Roosevelt. Romney also shared a course at HBS with a future president: George W. Bush, who was in the class behind Romney’s.