Steve Chapman

I have often wondered why I was accepted. People familiar with my high school GPA and SAT score have asked me the same thing, usually in a tone of exaggerated incredulity. I was not an academic whiz. Nor was I a star athlete or musical prodigy. I had no relatives who were alumni.

I naturally assumed the admissions officials had identified some intangible quality that would profoundly enrich the intellectual environment of Cambridge. Or that I had impressed them with the looks and charm that had been lost on my high school classmates, particularly the female ones. But maybe Harvard was just determined to boost its minority numbers and saw that I could help.

Why my ostensible American Indian heritage didn't count with the other schools I applied to, I can't say. Four of the other five rejected me -- including Dartmouth, whose website claims it was "founded in 1769 with a mission to educate Indian students."

Maybe the people running Dartmouth had secretly abandoned that mission. Maybe they had enough Native Americans already. Maybe they took me for a brazen fraud.

No one at Harvard had that reaction to me, or to Warren. She is sticking to her guns, saying in her Wednesday statement, "My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I'm proud of it and I have been open about it."

That sounds like the right approach. Maybe it's not too late for me to try it.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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