Filling the Shoes

We would like you to blog about how you see yourself as a future professional.This includes writing about what major and course of study you have currently chosen at your home campus and how you will use this training as a tool in your future career. Has your plans changed since you first enrolled at your home campus? What expectations do you have about being professionals in your future career fields ? Are you aware of the social elements and work culture surrounding your possible future profession?

Heroes are everywhere: in the form of figurines stocked on the shelves of department stores, in the form of pixelated characters in video games, and in the form of the billion dollar cinematic production shown in theaters. I want to think that heroes surround us, but when I learned that children were imprisoned at the southern border of the United States, I wondered where their heroes are. Alienated from their parents in chain-link cages and cold cells, these children were and still are surrounded by armed foreigners. Meanwhile, politicians demonize them on the public stage, telling the masses that this machine should make victims out of children. I hated feeling powerless while these children suffered, and more so than ever, I wanted to become someone’s hero. The heroes of spandex and superpowers that I grew up with would not help these children. I felt that I needed to redefine what heroism meant to me—or what it could mean. This was when I decided that I want to become a litigator.

I think I always had some inkling that law might be in my future. When I changed my major from Psychology to English and adopted Philosophy as a minor, I told myself that if writing novels for a living did not work out, I could always become a lawyer. Anyhow, I became an English major and Philosophy minor because I enjoy reading, thinking, and writing. That’s what lawyers essentially do, don’t they?

Well—yes, but no, because lawyers can potentially do much more. In the memoir Just Mercy, written by found of the Equal Justice Initiative and public defender Bryan Stevenson, Stevenson recounts the story of one client name Charlie. Fourteen-year old Charlie who weighed less than one-hundred pounds and had no prior criminal record, killed his mother’s boyfriend at the time, an officer, after the man had frequently beat his mother to the point of necessitating medical treatment and eventually murdered her. However, the court tried Charlie as an adult against all common sense because the prosecutor on the case emphasized the fact that Charlie’s mother’s former boyfriend was a police officer who had a good reputation in the community. In the adult jail where Charlie was imprisoned, he was sexually abused and raped. It seemed to me, at the time, that Stevenson was probably the best positioned to help Charlie—and Stevenson did. If I am to become an attorney, I decided, then I would become an attorney like Stevenson.

My coursework and professors at John Jay have certainly helped with this objective. They are bone-tired but unstoppable advocates for a better world, and the practice I am offered when it comes to my advocacy through writing or elocution prepares me for the day that I stand where they—and Stevenson—stand. My legal writing class, in fact, allowed me to draft a developed and thorough legal memo at my judicial internship. Most importantly, with the help of my mentors, I am given an opportunity to glimpse into the world that lawyers inhabit. It’s an ancient, esoteric, and monolithic world—daunting, and hard to access without the help of other people—but because there are professors and alumni ardent about pulling new faces into the legal profession, I am able to learn the conventions and taboos.

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  1. This is great Samuel. Your passion and diligence will allow you to accomplish many things. Believe this. However, I must caution you on becoming someone’s hero. The reality is you cant save everyone and more importantly like the mentors and leaders that you take guidance from the endeavors that you embark on will REQUIRE you to take care of yourself. It’s not up for discussion or to put on the back burner. Know that what it will take a lot out of you and you will need to find balance. With that stated, I look forward to seeing your heroic work come into fruition. Thank you in advance.

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