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LISTEN: Before Obama Was President, In His Own Words On NPR

When Barack Obama makes his farewell address Tuesday night, it will be one of the last times we'll hear from the president, while he's still actually the president.

But before his political career, Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and the state director of Illinois Project Vote.

And it was back then — in the 1990s, when Obama was in his late 20s and early 30s — that he first appeared on NPR.

Here are highlights from some of those earliest appearances:

In 1990, Obama was still a student at Harvard Law School and had just become the Harvard Law Review's first black president when he was interviewed on Morning Edition.

Obama discusses changes he hoped to initiate:

'Law reviews are notoriously bad bedtime reading. ...'

At the time, Obama was 29 years old. He had worked for a few years as a community organizer in Chicago, before going to law school.

Obama discusses what his plans are after serving as president of the law review:

By the summer of 1992, Obama had gotten involved in politics. He was the state director of Illinois Project Vote. Bill Clinton was campaigning for president, with Hillary Clinton at his side.

Meanwhile, Obama was 30 years old, and working on voter registration.

Even in the 1990s, Obama was talking about something he references a lot now: getting people involved in politics and invested in institutions.

Here he is on NPR's Talk of The Nation in 1992:

Another theme in these appearances: Obama talking about issues of race. It's something he grappled with in his memoir, Dreams From My Father, and in this commentary on All Things Considered in October 1994.

In it, he criticizes the book The Bell Curve by political scientist Charles Murray and psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein. That book was controversial for the way it linked race, genetics and IQ — and Obama called it "dubious science."

Obama argued that the country needed to invest in public schools and good-paying jobs, and provide what he called "real opportunity" for black children.

Listen to Obama's commentary:

Exactly 14 years after that commentary aired, Obama was campaigning in Pennsylvania.

He was one week away from being elected the country's first black president.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.