Fact Check

Barack Obama at Columbia

Did Barack Obama really graduate from Columbia University?

Published Feb. 23, 2010


Claim:   Barack Obama did not attend Columbia University.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, October 2009]

I have always wondered why NO ONE ever came forward from Obama's past saying they knew him, attended school with him, was his friend, etc. NO ONE, not one person has ever come forward from his past. VERY VERY STRANGE.

This should really be a cause for great concern.

To those who voted for him, YOU HAVE ELECTED THE BIGGEST UNQUALIFIED FRAUD that America has ever known!

This is very interesting stuff. Sort of adds credence to the idea of The Manchurian Candidate thing having happened here! Stephanopoulos of ABC news said the same thing during the 08' campaign. He too was a classmate of BO's at Columbia class of 1984. He said he never had one class with him.

Was he there?

While he is such a great orator, why doesn't anyone in Obama's college class remember him? Maybe he never attended class! Maybe he never attended Columbia? He won't allow Colombia to release his records either. Suspicious isn't it???


Looking for evidence of Obama's past, Fox News contacted 400 Columbia University students from the period when Obama claims to have been there, but none remembered him.

Wayne Allyn Root was, like Obama, a political science major at Columbia who also graduated in 1983. In 2008, Root says of Obama, "I don't know a single person at Columbia that knew him, and they all know me. I don't have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia. Ever! Nobody recalls him. I'm not exaggerating, I'm not kidding.

Root adds that he was also, like Obama, "Class of '83 political science, pre-law" and says, "You don't get more exact or closer than that. Never met him in my life, don't know anyone who ever met him.

At the class reunion, our 20th reunion five years ago, who was asked to be the speaker of the class? Me. No one ever heard of Barack! And five years ago, nobody even knew who he was. The guy who writes the class notes, who's kind of the, as we say in New York , the macha who knows everybody, has yet to find a person, a human who ever met him. Is that not strange?"

It's very strange. "Obama's photograph does not appear in the school's yearbook and Obama consistently declines requests to talk about his years at Columbia , provide schoolrecords, or provide the name of any former classmates or friends while at Columbia."


NOTE: Root graduated as Valedictorian from his high school, Thornton-Donovan School, then graduated from Columbia University in 1983 as a Political Science major (in the same class as President Barack Obama WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN IN).

Can it be that BHO is a complete fraud?? More intrigue concerning "The Man who wasn't there."


Origins:   Those who have followed the background of President Barack Obama are familiar with the arc of his post-secondary education: After finishing high school in 1979, he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years, transferred to Columbia College in New York City (one of Columbia University's four undergraduate schools) for another two years, graduated from Columbia with a bachelor's degree in political science, and then (after a five-year interlude during which he traveled and worked as a community organizer) entered Harvard Law School in 1988 and graduated with a law degree in 1991.

Even those who have studied Barack Obama's background in detail don't generally know much about his time at Columbia University, however, as he hasn't revealed much about that period of his life in his public writings and statements, nor has he made his transcripts or other school records from Columbia available

for public examination. Obama's reticence about revealing much from this period of his life has given license to a number of related rumors, the most outlandish of them being the claim outlined above that he fabricated this element of his background and didn't really attend Columbia at all.

Most expressions of this rumor feed off the statement (referenced in a Wall Street Journal editorial) that "Fox News contacted some 400 of [Obama's] classmates and found no one who remembered him" and a statement made by Wayne Allyn Root (the Libertarian Party's 2008 vice presidential nominee who also attended Columbia at the same time as Barack Obama) that "I don't know a single person at Columbia that knows him, and they all know me. I don't have a classmate who ever knew Barack Obama at Columbia."

As literally true as these statements might be, they don't prove that Barack Obama never attended Columbia — at best they demonstrate there was nothing particularly remarkable or distinguished about him at that point in his life that others found memorable 25 years after the fact. Barack Obama himself would likely agree with that assessment, as he noted himself that he spent his time at Columbia largely alone and isolated:

In his memoir and in interviews, Obama has said he got serious and buckled down in New York. "I didn't socialize that much. I was like a monk," he said in a 2005 Columbia alumni magazine interview. He told biographer David Mendell: "For about two years there, I was just painfully alone and really not focused on anything, except maybe thinking a lot."

Although Barack Obama may not have been particularly social or memorable during his years at Columbia, it isn't true that "no one ever came forward from Obama's past saying they knew him, attended school with him, was his friend, etc." Those who have attested to having daily personal experience with him during his time at that school include:

  • Friend and roommate Sohale Siddiqi, whom the Associated Press located and interviewed in May 2008.
  • Roommate Phil Boerner, who provided his recollections of sharing a New York City apartment with classmate Barack Obama to the Columbia College Today alumni publication and the New York Times in early 2009.
  • Michael L. Baron, who taught the year-long honors seminar in American Foreign Policy that Barack Obama took during his senior year at Columbia and recalled in an NBC interview Obama's "easily acing" the class and receiving an A for his senior paper on the topic of nuclear negotiations with the Soviet Union.

Likewise, other external evidence documents Barack Obama's presence at Columbia from 1981-83, including:

  • An article by Barack Obama published in the 10 March 1983 edition of Columbia's Sundial school magazine.
  • A January 2005 Columbia College Today profile of Barack Obama as a Columbia alumnus.
  • A Columbia College press release from November 2008 identifying him as "the first College alumnus to be elected President of the United States."

Finally, the fatal flaw in the "Obama didn't go to Columbia" theory is that he couldn't have been admitted to Harvard Law School in 1988 without having received an undergraduate degree. If he wasn't attending Columbia from 1981-83, he would have had to complete two full years' worth of coursework at (and graduate from) some other accredited college — yet his time between the end of his Columbia days in 1983 and his entering Harvard Law in 1988 is accounted for (working at the Business International Corporation and the New York Public Interest Research Group, then serving as director of the Developing Communities Project in Chicago), and no other school claims him as an alumnus, nor does anyone purport to have encountered him as a classmate or student at any other college or university during that period.

Last updated:   23 February 2010


    Boerner, Phil.   "Barack Obama '83, My Columbia College Roommate."

    Columbia College Today.   January/February 2009.

    Boss-Bicak, Shira.   "Barack Obama '83."

    Columbia College Today.   January/February 2005.

    Cowan, Alison Leigh.   "Recollections of Obama's Ex-Roommate."

    The New York Times.   20 January 2009.

    Goldman, Adam and Robert Tanner.   "Old Friends Recall Obama's Years in LA, NY."

    USA Today.   15 May 2008.

    Obama, Barack.   "Breaking the War Mentality."

    Sundial.   10 March 1983.

    Popkin, Jim.   "Obama and the Case of the Missing 'Thesis.'"

    MSNBC.com.   24 July 2008.

    Scott, Janny.   "Obama's Account of New York Years Often Differs from What Others Say."

    The New York Times.   30 October 2007.

    Vogel, Kenneth P.   "What Are the Candidates Hiding?"

    Politico.com.   23 October 2008.

    Welch, Matt.   "Wayne Allyn Root's Million-Dollar Challenge."

    Reason.   5 September 2008.

    The Wall Street Journal.   "Obama's Lost Years."

    11 September 2008   (p. A14).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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