GIVAT ZE’EV, Israel — Barack Obama is now my favorite Columbia College classmate. Barack and I graduated from Columbia College in May 1983. Thanks to him, I have been freed from an excruciating bimonthly ordeal.
Six times a year Columbia College Today, our alumni magazine, makes the long trek all the way out to my post office box in Givat Ze’ev. And six times a year, with fear and trepidation, I used to rip open the plastic covering, flip to the “Class Notes” section in the back, find the ’83 listings, and then begin the nasty business of seeing how I measure up to the other guys (all guys in fact, since we were Columbia’s last all-male class).
But now I am at peace when CCT arrives, because no one can compete with Barack Obama. Game Over.
Daniel J. is chief executive officer of a major retail conglomerate? Barack O. is about to become chief executive of the United States. John S. commands one of our fighting forces in Iraq? Barack O. is about to become commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. Lawrence G. was appointed to the appellate court in one of the southern states? Barack O. will soon be in the position to appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices. And so it goes. It’s just tough to compete against the president of the United States.
For the record, I don’t remember Barack from my college days, nor do any of my friends, nor have any of our classmates reported to CCT about palling around with Barack. Perhaps he was a more serious student than we were and didn’t circulate much. Looking at the situation from a different perspective (i.e., from the perspective of the person who paid for Columbia’s tuition), my dad called me after the Democratic Convention to say: “Maybe if you had had a little less fun in college you too could have been president of the United States.”
Apparently, to judge from the write-up in the September/October edition of CCT, the recent 25th reunion of our Class of ’83 was an “overwhelming success.” Unfortunately, neither Barack nor I could make it. Barack sent a short letter to the class, which was read aloud at the reunion and printed in CCT. Barack noted that, “25 years ago, we left Columbia with the wind at our backs. But in spite of our successes, many in our nation have not shared in the prosperity of the last quarter-century, and some are worse off than before. We must continually be reminded of the work that remains to protect our union and repair our world.” He’s still as serious as ever.
I’m not sure how far I was from Barack Obama on our graduation day. Perhaps if I was a little closer to him, I might have been swept up in the gust that has brought him so far ahead of the rest of us. And indeed, because he has come so very far, Barack has taken the pressure off all of the rest of us in Columbia’s Class of ’83, for we now have one thing in common: we are all equally nonpresidential.
(Teddy Weinberger is an Israel-based columnist.)