From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan and NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Obama today talked to a group of high school students in New Hampshire about his adolescent drug use, drinking alcohol and being a "goof off" in high school. It is certainly not the first time Obama has spoken on the subject of his drug use, but it is the first time he has discussed it on the campaign trail. Obama wrote at length on it in his best-selling memoir, Dreams from My Father.
He was asked by the principal of the school to "Give us a human side," talk about his favorite subject, what subjects he struggled with and what clubs and sports he participated in."
"I will confess to you that I was kind of a goof off in high school as my mom reminded me," Obama said. "I went to high school in Hawaii, so there's a lot of opportunity to goof off because the weather is really good all the time. I did well in school, but I didn't really apply myself. I did what I needed to, to get into college, and it came fairly easily to me, but I never worked as hard as I should have.
"I was big on basketball; I was a basketball player. We were state champs. I thought I was better than I was. But I just loved the game and I played basketball a lot. I thought about girls a lot.
"You know, I made some bad decisions…. You know, got into drinking and experimenting with drugs. There was a whole stretch of time where I didn't apply myself. It wasn't until I got out of … high school, and went to college that I started realizing, man, I wasted a lot of time.
"When I started college, I started noticing, why some places are poor others rich. Why is it that we spend all this money on our military, but we don't spend it on our schools? Why is it that women aren't always treated the same as men… a lot of questions that started bubbling up in my mind.
"I realized if I had spent a little more time reading, and studying that I could actually have some influence in the world. So I did a lot of catching up when I got to college. By the time I was a junior and senior, in college I got real serious. In fact, I was so serious my mother told me to lighten up. Fortunately, over time, I got a little balance."
As we mentioned, Obama wrote on the subject in Dreams. Here's an excerpt:
"I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though -- Mickey, my potential initiator, had been just a little too eager for me to go through with that. Said he could do it blind-folded, but he was shaking like a faulty engine when he said it. Maybe he was just cold; we were standing in a meat freezer in the back of the deli where he worked and it couldn't have been more than 20 degrees in there. But he didn't look like he was shaking from th ecold. Looked more like he was sweating, his face shiny and tight. He had pulled out the needle and the tubing, and I'd looked at him standing there, surrounded by big slabs of salami and roast beef, and right then an image popped into my head o fan air bubble, shiny and round like a pearly rolling quietly through a vein and stopping my heart….
"Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn't been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory."
*** UPDATE *** From NBC's Matthew Berger
Giuliani on Obama: "I respect his honesty in doing that," Giuliani said of Obama speaking about his drug use. "I think that one of the things we need from our people who are running for office is not this pretense of perfection. And the reality is all of us that run for public office, whether its governor, legislator, mayor, president, we are all human beings. If we haven't made mistakes don't vote for us. Cause we got some big ones that are gonna happen in the future and we won't know how to handle them."
Giuliani has been stressing that he is not perfect as a way of countering questions about his personal life. It has been an active theme at debates and even appeared in both of his recent television ads.