Tag Archives: Cooper Union


This post begins a series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.

The book takes the reader into the world of Barack Obama prior to his emergence as a national figure.  The Preface makes a bold opening statement.  The chapters that follow are evidential arguments that substantiate the statement.  The author’s documentation is exhaustive and the source attribution is impeccable.  The source notes alone number 1,119 and take up 63 pages.


The author begins the Preface by asking the question “What on earth is a Community Organizer?”
He then proposes to answer it with the assertion that community organizing is a profession.  Socialism is the goal.  Stealth is the strategy.

Chapter 1
The Socialism Puzzle

“Late in the afternoon of April 1, 1983, a twenty-one year old Barack Obama made his way into the historic Great Hall of Manhattan’s Cooper Union to attend a “Socialists’ Scholars Conference.  Within twenty-four hours, his life had been transformed.  There at that conference Obama discovered his vocation as a community organizer, as well as a political program to guide him throughout his adult life.”  So begins the book.

The Socialists Scholars Conference (SSC) of 1983 was a convention organized by prominent socialist scholars and activists as a bicentennial memorial in honor of Karl Marx who died in 1783. The largest gathering of socialists in American history was held three weeks earlier in the same Hall. It was also a tribute to Marx and attended by 6,000 people with another 5,000 turned away.

The conferences took place in 1983, ‘84 and ‘85 during Obama’s years at Columbia University. The New York Times referred to this period of seclusion and personal reflection as “the lost chapter” of the President’s life. There is not a lot that can be documented about this interlude, but we can be certain he attended at least the 1983 Marx memorial conference and that his Columbia associations and activities were consistent with socialist beliefs. Obama wrote an article for the campus paper Sundial calling for total nuclear disarmament as necessary to defeat the “military-industrial interests” and their “billion dollar erector sets.”

Frances Piven, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America Executive Committee and a woman with deep ties to ACORN opened the convention with a speech declaring “We must stand within the intellectual and political tradition Marx bequeathed us [ as a] living tradition – the thinking of active people” – to shape history as inspired by the ideas of Karl Marx.

Another convention speaker was Cuban journalist Jose Marti. In his remarks to the gathering he praised Marx as an “ardent transformer, uniter of men of different peoples, and tireless, powerful organizer.”.

James Cone, an eminent black liberation theologian and mentor to the Rev Jeremiah Wright spoke at the 1984 SSC convention.  Kurtz speculates that this may have been Obama’s first introduction to Wright and the Trinity Church.

Karl Marx recognized the need to be pragmatic in the course of implementing socialist control. Whereas force and coercion may yield faster results in some countries, patience and subtlety would be required in others, notably those nations profoundly committed to individual freedoms and personal property rights. Socialists remain divided to this day between advancing their goals with open advocacy of their beliefs or settling for the slower advance that would come from a stealth and incremental approach which is a strategy of gradual implementation culminating with an ambush from within. As a socialist, Obama would fall into the latter more pragmatic stealth school.

Kurtz quotes John Drew, a man who was a Marxist radical in his youth and knew Obama when they both were students at Occidental College.

[Barack] was a “pure Marxist socialist at the time and hewed to the ”Marxist-Leninist” view that a violent socialist revolution was likely within his lifetime. The job of a proper radical, Obama believed, was to prepare for that event.

Radical philosophical beliefs are often passing fantasies of idealistic youth. But observing Obama over the ensuing years yields a picture of a true believer, a man of conviction, sincerity and dedication to ideals similar to those he held as a youth.


President Abraham Lincoln made his public address at Cooper Union in New York City on April 27, 1860.  Six weeks later the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter starting the American Civil War.  It was Lincoln’s final speech prior to the war.

An eyewitness that evening said, “When Lincoln rose to speak, I was greatly disappointed. He was tall, tall, – oh, how tall! and so angular and awkward that I had, for an instant, a feeling of pity for so ungainly a man.” However, once Lincoln warmed up, “his face lighted up as with an inward fire; the whole man was transfigured. I forgot his clothes, his personal appearance, and his individual peculiarities. Presently, forgetting myself, I was on my feet like the rest, yelling like a wild Indian, cheering this wonderful man.”

Lincoln’s law partner. William Herndon, who was not present but knew the speech, said it was “devoid of all rhetorical imagery.  It was constructed with a view to accuracy of statement, simplicity of language, and unity of thought. In some respects like a lawyer’s brief, it was logical, temperate in tone, powerful – irresistibly driving conviction home to men’s reasons and their souls.”

Lincoln began:

The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there anything new in the general use I shall make of them.  If there shall be any novelty, it will be in the mode of presenting the facts, and the inferences and observations following that presentation.

In his speech last autumn, at Columbus, Ohio, as reported in “The New-York Times,” Senator Douglas said: “Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now.”

I fully indorse this, and I adopt it as a text for this discourse. I so adopt it because it furnishes a precise and an agreed starting point for a discussion between Republicans and that wing of the Democracy headed by Senator Douglas. It simply leaves the inquiry: “What was the understanding those fathers had of the question mentioned?”

What is the frame of government under which we live?  The answer must be: “The Constitution of the United States…”

About midway in the speech:

I would say to them [Democrats in opposition to ending slavery]: – You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us a reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to “Black Republicans.” In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of “Black Republicanism” as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite – license, so to speak – among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

Lincoln ends with this pledge:

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

Today’s post is courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Online.  Visit them for everything Lincoln.