by: Marceline Donaldson and Harold E. Doley, Jr.
Drew Gilpin Faust, the 28th president of Harvard University has resigned her position effective June 30, 2018.
A historian and former head of Radcliff Institute, Ms. Faust did an excellent job of continuing to move this private Ivy League institution, founded in 1636 in “New Town” – later to become Cambridge, MA., to educate Congregational Ministers to be able to better serve their churches.
Until Ms. Faust’s tenure, Harvard was led by white males and only white males. She broke a ‘glass ceiling’ which held until 11 years ago.
Today, that mandate has changed and Harvard University has educated and continues to educate those who have been – who are – and who will be some of this country’s greatest leaders. Its resources are an endowment of more than $34 billion and a world-wide academic reputation. Coming to Harvard to study is a plum for most, no matter their country of origin.
Now, Harvard must look for a president who can continue its legacy and move it even higher – and we just might have the solution.
Harvard, of course needs to be led by a Nobel Laureate. And it would be great to have an alumnus of Harvard be that new president. Someone known around the world – using his or her Harvard education, which is widely acknowledged as having been one of the tools used to create that person’s legacy to the world. To also have that person with a beginning – at birth beginning – reflect the world in all of its diversity would be quite special. America has traditionally divided itself into many separatist camps while claiming to be a “melting pot”. Well, it is time for Harvard to help that image of America by selecting a president whose birth, upbringing and career choices reflect that “melting pot”.
Whose life better reflects what Harvard is about and what Harvard aspires for its students, researchers and others than President Barack Obama?
His mother was born on an Army base in Wichita, Kansas – the heartland of these United States. She was born on an Army base because her father enlisted in the military and moved across Europe in General George Patton’s Army. Obama’s grandfather studied using the G.I. Bill – owned a house using the Veterans Administration mortgage program – they helped raise Obama when his mother needed that help – and his grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line, moving herself up to Vice President of a bank.
From his parental legacy at birth even until today, Obama has been a product and symbol of the American Dream.
The other side of Barack Hussein Obama is his Kenyan father, who was born in Nyanza Province. Obama’s father grew up herding goats in Kenya and left there to accept a scholarship to study at the University of Hawaii. There he met Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, a woman of white middle-American ancestry. They married and produced a son at a time during which such intermarriages were not looked upon proudly or even accepted as legal in some parts of the United States.
Obama’s father attended Harvard University working towards a Ph.D. So, a part of President Barack Obama’s Harvard application would have included his standing as a legacy matriculant. It is an understatement to say Barack made good use of his Harvard education and is an incredible example for others to follow.
Having lived in Jakarta, Indonesia after his parents divorce and his mother’s re-marriage, Obama learned to function in multi-cultural settings from an early age.
He returned to the United States at age 10 to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents who sent him to Punahou Academy where he was forced to come to grips with himself as someone oppressed by the society in which he lived.
His educational experiences included Hawaii – Occidental College in Los Angeles – Columbia University in New York City and Harvard University School of Law where he ended his schooling as editor of the Law Review. He graduated Harvard Law magna cum laude.
To digress just a bit, I have a daughter who graduated Stanford School of Law as editor of the law review (sorry, a mother has to brag).
He has since practiced civil rights law with Miner, Barnhill & Galland; was a community organizer; taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School; and more.
Barack is a best-selling author and Grammy Award winner. If you have not read his book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance”, you should. The book is literally poetry. It has been printed in more than 25 languages. The audio-book version is narrated by President Obama.
Obama ran for and won a seat in the Illinois State Senate and worked with both Democrats and Republicans on legislation which included health care services, ethics and early childhood education programs.
He moved from the Illinois Senate to the U. S. Senate and from there to the presidency of the United States.
As president, he showed himself quite skilled at management, having come into office at a time when he had to immediately deal with a global economic crisis and ongoing foreign wars.
He is one of the few American presidents who was not involved in a scandal of any kind and presented and continues to present an image of which all of us can be proud. He is also one of the Americans who is greeted with accolades when he travels the world. His reception parallels, if it does not, in fact, exceed that of rock stars.
Harvard could not find a better president. We only hope President Obama sees things the same way.
WE ARE: Native New Orleanians.
Harold Doley is a former U. S Ambassador in the Reagan Administration, a 1990 graduate of Harvard Business School’s OPM Executive Education Program, among many other accomplishments.
Marceline Donaldson is a 1971 graduate of the Harvard Business School’s PMD Executive Education Program; former National Board Member of NOW, and of the Minneapolis Urban Coalition; founder of Bettina Network, inc.; author and contributor to books such as Elizabeth Fiorenza’s book (a Harvard Professor) as honoris causa, among many other accomplishments.
Proof reading this blog is the Rev. Dr. Robert A. Bennett, native to Baltimore, Maryland, who holds a PhD degree from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in Oriental Languages and Literature with a concentration in Hebrew, Hebrew Scripture, Archaeology, an ordained Episcopal priest who served his church as chair of its National Liturgical Commission, professor at Episcopal Divinity School for 35 years, chaired the National Council of Churches Inclusive Language Lectionary Committee, among many other accomplishments.
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