I could not help but notice that Donald Trump is offering to donate $5 million to one of Obama’s favorite charities if only Obama releases a range of sensitive documents including his undergraduate transcript from Occidental College. I wish Trump would just give the money to me. After all, I believe I have the personal experience and training needed to verify the gist of Trump’s concerns: I can confirm that Obama is an affirmative action president.
I observed that the young Obama had the IQ of an average white college student when I first met him over Christmas break in 1980. Obama was then a sophomore at Oxy and I was a graduate of Oxy who was paying my dues as a political science graduate student at Cornell. I met young Obama when I was in Portolla Valley, CA, reconnecting with my college-era Marxist sweetheart, Caroline Boss. By then, Boss had shared two classes with young Obama, an international relations course taught by Larry Caldwell and Carlos Egan and a political theory class taught by Roger Boesche. Ironically, I taught alongside both Egan and Boesche while I was an assistant professor in the political science department at Williams College.
Boss knew young Obama well enough to let me know that he was “one of us” meaning that he shared our radical point of view and all the class warfare angst associated with it. For the life of me, however, I do not remember her saying anything to the effect that young Obama was one of the brightest students at Oxy--much less a genius.
The bad news, for Trump and others, is that I do not believe Obama’s transcripts would tell us anything about either his nationality or scholarship status. Mine do not. My nationality is not indicated and I do not see any field on the transcript where it would be noted by school officials. I should add that I got to Oxy on a track scholarship. (I ran a 4:23 mile in high school.) However, I see no mention of my athletic prowess or that scholarship on my undergraduate transcript. Reviewing my own transcript, I can report that I earned straight A’s my freshman year. These transcripts also show my SAT scores. I am sure Obama’s transcripts would show his SAT scores too. This would be useful information, in part, because we can estimate a person’s IQ from their SAT scores.
If Trump is reading this piece, I can report that I have gotten good at guessing someone’s IQ. I suspect that anyone who – like me – has made a living as a college professor, a college admissions counselor, or a management consultant gets good at this task. In my case, I also have the experience of growing up with a younger brother who has a genius level IQ and the rocket science resume to back it up.
I can report to Trump that the young Obama came across as an average white guy. This, of course, is exactly what he was. Obama had a white mother and grew up nurtured by his white grandparents. Based on my exposure to young Obama, I estimate that his grades were in the middle B’s and that his IQ was slightly above average for a college student. Personally, I am not surprised by his recent comments on the Jay Leno show to the effect that he was not particularly good at math--“Malia is now a freshman in high school. I’m pretty lost.” I suspect that Obama has been pretty lost for a long time since he does not report taking any college or graduate school classes that might have demanded skill in math, science or economics.
In conclusion, I should add that I have had the opportunity witness a number of former presidents speaking to live audiences. I feel confident making some comparisons. For example, I do not think Obama is blessed with a higher IQ than Carter or Clinton. Obama is not smarter than either George H.W. Bush or his son George W. Bush. Of all of these former presidents, including Reagan, the only one who startled me with his intelligence was Clinton who I saw during a recent business trip to Little Rock, Arkansas. All in all, I think it is reasonable to assert that the only reason Obama is now president is that so many people mistook him to be a genuine African-American, the sort of person who deserved an affirmative action boost to get ahead.
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.