A Columbia Marine To Obama: Help!
Is lifting the ROTC ban change we can believe in?
By WILLIAM MCGURN
Well, he's not a Marine yet. But Austin Byrd is a junior at Columbia University who has completed Officer Candidate School. So when he graduates nearly two years from now, he will leave campus with more than an Ivy degree. On his shoulders, he will carry the gold bars of a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
When that good day comes, Mr. Byrd says, he hopes that his university will have lifted a ban on the Reserve Officers' Training Corps that dates back to Vietnam. And here the Marine officer-to-be has a surprising ally: Columbia's most famous son, Barack Obama.
In a forum on public service on campus earlier this month, Mr. Obama (Columbia '83) and John McCain (Annapolis '58) were both asked about the ROTC ban. When Mr. McCain predictably called on Columbia to "re-examine" the ban, he was predictably booed by a crowd of several thousand students
who were watching the debate on a giant TV screen on campus.
The question was later put to Mr. Obama. "I think we've made a mistake on that," Mr. Obama replied. "I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy, but the notion that young people here at Columbia aren't offered a choice or an option in participating in military service is a mistake." The same students who had so lustily booed Mr. McCain, reported the New York Times, were "largely silent" when Mr. Obama gave the same answer.