Joe Klein Obama Thesis Statement

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Did Barack Obama's thesis for Columbia University, entitled 'Aristocracy Reborn,' note that America's founding fathers 'did not allow for economic freedom'?

  Barack Obama’s thesis for Columbia University, entitled “Aristocracy Reborn,” noted that America’s founding fathers “did not allow for economic freedom.”



 


I saw someone online claim that the following is a quote from Barack Obama’s thesis at Columbia contains the following segment:

“… the Constitution allows for many things, but what it does not allow is the most revealing. The Founders did not allow for economic freedom. While political freedom is supposedly a cornerstone of the document, the distribution of wealth is not even mentioned. While many believed that the new Constitution gave them liberty, it instead fitted them with the shackles of hypocrisy.”


 

  In academia, a thesis is a typical requirement for a graduate degree (although some schools require a thesis for a bachelor’s degree as well), an original research project submitted by a student on a topic related to his major. Many universities keep their students’ theses on file and make them available to the public as library resources.

In recent years, theses written by U.S. presidential candidates and their spouses have become subjects of great interest, particularly for the possibility that they might provide some insight into the thinking and mindsets of their authors, including the disclosure of once-held viewpoints that might be now be considered controversial and disadvantageous to their current political careers (or those of their spouses). Accordingly, major political figures have become more circumspect about allowing public access to their theses: Former First Lady 1969 Wellesley College thesis on community organizer Alinsky, for example, was not available for examination by the public during the eight years of her husband’s presidency, and current First Lady 1985 Princeton University thesis on “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community” was the subject of controversy when access to it was initially blocked during her husband’s campaign for the presidency. (The Obama campaign made a copy of Michelle’s thesis publicly available in February 2008, and Princeton’s restriction on access to it was likewise lifted.)

Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign (and afterwards), one of the items that was frequently cited as a “missing document” connected with Barack Obama was his own thesis for Columbia University, a school from which he graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in political science (with a specialization in international relations). Politico noted in October 2008 that:

His campaign would not release his transcripts, and it says it does not have a copy of his thesis, which dealt with Soviet nuclear disarmament and which has drawn intense interest.


As far as has been determined, Barack Obama did not produce a formal thesis for his degree at Columbia University; the closest match is a paper he wrote during his senior year for an honors seminar in American Foreign Policy. However, Columbia University has said it did not retain a copy of that paper, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt has said that Barack himself does not have a copy, and the professor to whom the paper was submitted has said that he no longer has a copy in his possession either:

[Baron] had saved Obama’s senior paper for years, and even hunted for it again [in July 2008] in some boxes. But he said his search was fruitless, and he now thinks he tossed it out [in 2000] during a move.

Baron

described [Obama’s] paper as a “thesis” or “senior thesis” in several interviews, and said that Obama spent a year working on it. Baron recalls that the topic was nuclear negotiations with the Soviet Union.

“My recollection is that the paper was an analysis of the evolution of the arms reduction negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States,” Baron said in an e-mail. “At that time, a hot topic in foreign policy circles was finding a way in which each country could safely reduce the large arsenal of nuclear weapons pointed at the For U.S. policy makers in both political parties, the aim was not disarmament, but achieving deep reductions in the Soviet nuclear arsenal and keeping a substantial and permanent American advantage. As I remember it, the paper was about those negotiations, their tactics and chances for success. Barack got an A.”

Baron said that, even if he could find a copy of the paper, it would likely disappoint Obama’s critics. “The course was not a polemical course, it was a course in decision making and how decisions got made,” he said. “None of the papers in the class were controversial.”

So would it provide any political ammunition today? “I don’t think it would at all,” Baron said. “It wasn’t a position paper; it was an analysis of decision-making.”

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