Obama Harvard Video Released, Shows Young Obama At 1991 Protest For Derrick Bell, Diversity

Before Andrew Breitbart’s unexpected death, the conservative blogger and journalist had promised to release video footage of President Barack Obama that he said would change the election. Now, BuzzFeed has unearthed the video it believes Breitbart was referring to, according to the site’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith. If this is indeed the footage in question, it’s not particularly controversial. In the 1991 video, which BuzzFeed licensed from WGBH Boston, a young Obama is shown speaking in support of Harvard’s first tenured black law professor, Derrick Bell. Bell was staging a protest over the lack of female black professors at the school, and was taking an unpaid leave until Harvard hired a woman of color. As Bell said at the time, “My major effort in teaching is to convince students … that they should be ready and able to take risks and make sacrifices for the things they believe in, and their real success in life will come from making those sacrifices and taking those risks, regardless of outcome. The best way to teach that is to practice it.” In the video, Obama, who was then president of the Harvard Law Review, is shown praising Bell, while the professor stands nearby and a crowd cheers. Obama recalls how Bell spoke at an orientation for first-year students, and instead of lecturing the students, encouraged conversation. Obama doesn’t sound much different than he does today, though his presentation has improved (he keeps his hands stuffed in his pockets during his entire speech). He employs his now-signature charm, flattering Bell’s “good looks” and the “excellence of his scholarship.” The video ends with Obama urging the crowd to open up their hearts and minds to Bell. Big Government, a conservative website founded by Breitbart, is claiming that the video released by BuzzFeed is selectively edited. It promises more video to come shortly. BuzzFeed denied editing the video, and said the site published the video they purchased from WGBH in its entirety.
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