By Marty Stolz
S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor Erika George’s story of casually getting to know Barack Obama at a Chicago gym and his strong encouragement of her to apply to Harvard Law School has captivated Utah reporters covering the Democratic National Convention this week in Denver. Her story has been recounted on public radio on KUER, on television on KSL, and in Utah’s largest daily newspapers, The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News.
George, who teaches international human rights and humanitarian law, international law, constitutional law and civil procedure at the College of Law, is an alternate party delegate with the Utah Democratic Party delegation. She grew up in Chicago and graduated with honors from the University of Chicago with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
After college, George met Obama while working out at her neighborhood gym. She noticed that Obama often wore a shirt about female lawyers, and she asked him about it. Obama and his wife, Michelle, both graduated from Harvard Law School. Then Obama persistently encouraged George to apply to his alma mater, a possibility George says she had never considered.
“It was just nice to find someone who was a complete stranger from the gym, but who was able to be that encouraging and that sincere,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It is not often that young people of color get that kind of ‘you can do it’ said as fact and without any doubt.”
After finishing at Harvard Law School, George practiced at a Chicago firm, clerked for a federal district judge and worked for Human Rights Watch, before arriving at the College of Law in 2003.
KUER FM/90.1, Utah Delegates and Bloggers Excited to Support Obama,” Aug. 25, 2008(http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kuer/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1349054§ionID=1)
KSL TV, “Utah delegate’s life touched by Obama,” Aug. 24, 2008
Salt Lake Tribune, “Utah prof remembers Obama: The gym friend who got her to go to Harvard,” Aug. 26, 2008 (http://www.sltrib.com/ci_10298526?IADID=Search-www.sltrib.com-www.sltrib.com)
Deseret News,”For many, nomination is a dream fulfilled,” Aug. 26, 2008, (http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,700253165,00.html)