A professor with some famous former students


How many teachers can say they had the president and the chief justice of the Supreme Court as their students?  Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe can — and discussed it Monday at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ annual Plenum.

Tribe received  the organization’s Albert D. Chernin Award and in a talk entitled "The Constitution Has Left the Building," noted that he had taught both men constitutional law. He admitted to not knowing the chief justice very well — although his hope Roberts would pursue "a more moderate trajectory was not realized" — but said he knew after his first encounter with Obama that the president was something special.

"We had a long conversation and I was so impressed I asked him right away" to be a research assistant, recalled Tribe. "Hiring a beginning law student like that was something I haven’t done fo 40 years."

Tribe noted that seeing his former students — which also include Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) , FCC chair appointee Julius Genachowski, Solicitor General nominee Elana Kagan, Biden chief of staff Ron Klain — "step onto the stage to offer their talents" is a thrill that’s the next best thing to seeing his own children succeed.

"At least I tell myself I didn’t turn them off" from a career, he said.

Tribe told the crowd that he was "driven in part by Jewish tradition, but in part by an abiding love for what this nation represents — the whole of which greatly exceeds sum of its parts."


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