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."