Which experience do you think has influenced you more, undergrad or law school?
It’s not something I’d considered before, but another interesting article (the second I’ve mentioned this week) by Noam Schreiber in The New Republic begs the question.
Schreiber’s article argues that the law school experiences of Presidents Clinton and Obama help explain differences in their respective presidential transitions. Essentially, Shreiber attributes Clinton’s “disregard for Washington protocol” and his more disorganized approach to his experience at Yale, and attributes Obama’s “reverence for Washington institutions” and his predilection for tactical maneuvering to his time at Harvard.
The article is the most detailed description I’ve read of life at Yale and Harvard and it emphasizes stark contrasts between those institutions. Its also littered with interesting anecdotes, but as Prawfsblawg notes, there still doesn’t seem to be much hard support for the relationship Schreiber alleges.
Building on Shreiber’s thesis, Daniel W. Drezner of TheNewForeignPolicy.com asks the question posed above: which is more formative, undergrad or law school?
A commenter to Drezner’s post argues that undergrad has a greater influence on personal identity, while law school has a greater influence on professional identity.
I agree. However, over a lifetime, I think undergrad is the more formative experience. Personal identity, at least partially formed during the college years, guides the way we approach decisions and situations. The way we approach the hundreds of choices (including deciding which law school to go to) and circumstances we confront over a lifetime heavily influences professional identity.
Thus, it may be their undergrad experiences that best explain the difference in leadership style between President Clinton and President Obama. I’ll be eagerly awaiting Mr. Shreiber’s stylistic breakdown of Georgetown and Occidental/Columbia.