Posted on Jul 30, 2008

As the presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain heats up, the incoming Class of 2012 is spending the final weeks of summer brushing up on the life stories of both men.

Half of the 587 students are reading Obama’s 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father," while the others are reading McCain’s book,"Faith of My Fathers," published in 2000. The books, selected by a group of students, faculty and administrators, were randomly assigned to the class as part of the first-year reading program.

The reading assignment is one of several events tied to the presidential campaign that is designed to introduce the new class to each other as well as the rest of the campus community. There will be online discussions of the two books, as well as conversations within the first year preceptorials.

Faith of My Fathers memoir by John McCain
Dreams from My Father, a memoir by Barack Obama

Also, during orientation weekend, the Class of 2012 will get a chance to discuss the campaign with Joshua Micah Marshall, founder of the popular liberal blog, Talking Points Memo. Earlier this year, Marshall became the first blogger to win a prestigious George Polk Award. Judges for one of journalism’s top prizes honored Marshall for his site’s legal reporting on the politically motivated dismissals of United States attorneys, which prompted a closer examination by the traditional news media and ultimately led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

“It was clear to those selecting the summer reading that this particular year offered an unprecedented opportunity,” said Tom McEvoy, associate dean of students and director of Minerva Programs. “The presidential election is 'the story' of 2008.  With all of our incoming class likely voting for the first time, and knowing this election would provide high drama, it seemed like a natural to select a reading that was relevant to the election.”

The books were recently mailed to students, accompanied by a letter from President Stephen C. Ainlay, who wrote that the campaign “will undoubtedly generate a great deal of conversation, dialogue and debate here on campus,” and that reading the books will “help you prepare for all this and the intellectual journey that is ahead.”

Ainlay also told students they could request a free copy of the book they weren’t assigned.