Answer by Terrence Yang:

  • Campus leader.
  • He was someone left of center whom folks right of center liked and respected. These folks felt he listened to them.
  • Mature, calm, thoughtful, smart, respectful, positive, good writer and speaker, diplomatic, highly confident and measured.
  • So measured that classmates and I thought he would not be great initially at debates in 2008. But we also correctly predicted that he'd become a great debater quickly because he's a fast learner and focused.
  • Like some others, he spoke more than most classmates in class first year.
  • Sharp elbows on the basketball court. Was not above calling fouls sometimes.
  • Enjoyed playing video golf with friends.
  • Strong sense of social justice.
  • Somewhat introverted. I think this is why the media portrays him as aloof, dispassionate or reserved sometimes.
  • Normal, smart, cool guy. I had no idea he'd become President. I don't think my classmates who knew him better did either. Or one of them would have kept better in touch with him and become Chief of Staff or Attorney General or something.
  • Not big on pomp and circumstance. He skipped our graduation ceremonies.
  • Private. I was a summer associate at a Chicago law firm with him. Michelle Obama – then Michelle Robinson – worked at the same firm. They met there. I had no idea he was dating the future First Lady until we spoke briefly a year or so after we graduated. We had a few mutual friends and no one said anything. And he would come up in conversation a bit because he was the first black President of Harvard Law Review, etc. Anyway, not only did I learn on that call that they had been dating but he told me they were getting married!

Additional disclaimer

I did not know the President well. Above is basically sourced entirely from same-year classmates whom I find highly credible.

What was Obama like at Harvard?