Earlier today, one of our law graduate students gave a delightful performance of a poem, Why I’ll #IdleNoMore. The poem earned Michelle first place in the annual diversity writing contest the University Library sponsors in conjunction with the Provost’s Diversity Research Forum.
Michelle’s performance was evocative and thought-provoking, as is the poem itself: She rapped about the goals of the Idle No More movement, and about activism as an ally of that movement.
As stimulating to me as her performance were the remarks with which Michelle prefaced it. She spoke of how, were it not for her time here as a graduate student in law, she would have done none of this—to have engaged in activism to the extent she has done, to have found the courage to take on the role of an ally, and even to have written and performed poetry on issues that move her. (Michelle won second prize in the same competition in an earlier year.)
Though she spoke specifically of her time as a graduate student in law, Michelle’s remarks stimulated my thoughts about the many ways in which law school in general can be a transformative experience. For my part, to return to a law school—albeit not as a student—nearly two decades after my own graduation, surfaced a complex set of thoughts, memories, and even raw emotions. We sometimes make the wry comparison to high school. But law school can give more than critical thinking, legal reasoning, and substantive knowledge. It’s interesting to watch a student grow from September 1L, to January 1L, to new graduate.
Some difficult old memories bubble up on a regular basis. (At present our first-year students are working on their first legal research memos and have endured their first set of exams.) At the same time, I’m reminded of intellectual and societal growth and awareness that law school can advance. And I get to observe ideas and talents blossom.