U. Florida Law Prof Reflects On Days As Obama's Student

This story was written by Kristen Huff, Independent Florida Alligator


In 2001, University of Floridalaw professor Daniel Sokol was just a student at the University of Chicago Law School, and the nowpresumptive Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, was just his professor.

Well, he wasnt just a professor; he was also a state senator who many assumed was in the autumn of his political career after losing his bid for a U.S. Congressional seat in 2000.

I dont think anyone thought in a million years that he would be the presumptive frontrunner in a presidential campaign, Sokol said.

Obama taught at the law school for 12 years, according to The New York Times.

Sokol was one of about 20 students in Obamas wellliked Racism and the Law seminar.

What made him popular was just that he was deeply engaging and very sophisticated in how he balanced class, he said.

Passionate class discussion of the controversial topic was volleyed among Libertarians, radicals, conservatives and Democrats, yet Obama was skillful at monitoring the debate, Sokol said.

But the senator was quiet about his own thoughts, he said.

He was very careful about sharing some of his opinions in class, Sokol said. At the time, I thought, Its because hes a politician, and I guess I was right.

Though guarded about his views, the senator was genuine in class, he said.

He recalled one time Obama came into class and asked students to forgive his nervous demeanor; his daughter was being evaluated for entrance into kindergarten.

Thats the one thing I really liked, he said. He never stopped being a person.

After practicing law for about five years, Sokol decided to become a teacher.

Obama, who had since left the law school and was a U.S. senator by then, had been impressed by one of Sokols papers and had promised him a letter of recommendation if he ever went into academia.

Sokol, who is a registered Independent and has not made any donations to Obamas campaign, sent a letter to the senator on a whim, and within two weeks, he got a response.

Years later, this was a guy who still cared, Sokol said.

In terms of how fervently the senator has been received by his supporters, Sokol said he could only speculate along with everyone else.

There is something about Obama that really fascinates people, he said.
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