Buried deep in the comments to an earlier post, TangoMan points to a 1999 LA Times article that sheds some light on the mystery of how the President ranked in the top ten percent at Harvard Law School without much intellectually distinguishing himself during most other periods of his life. Most likely, he didn't in the top 10% at HLS, as is so often assumed based on his magna cum laude honors. Only since 1999 has magna cum laude at HLS, the honor that Obama earned, been restricted to the top 10 percent.
June 10, 1999|Reuters
When members of Harvard Law School's class of 1999 receive their prestigious degrees Thursday, 36% fewer graduates than last year will be awarded with honors, the school said Wednesday. ...Â Under a system implemented three years ago that first took effect with this year's class, Harvard Law said it will limit magna cum laude degrees to the top 10% of the class. The next 30% will receive cum laude degrees.Â Under the old system, 76% of Harvard Law grads earned honors, the school said.
So, more likely, Obama finished in, say, the top 30% or 40% at HLS in grades. And, you want to know something? That's really good. He's a very smart guy. He's plenty smart enough to be President.