This Week’s Other Presidential Anniversary

There’s a lot of hullabaloo over the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and who or who is not visiting the Kennedy grave at Arlington tomorrow. The noise of politics often drowns out the things to which we should be paying attention, and the politics of grave visiting is certainly unimportant compared with the reality of what happened fifty years ago in Dallas. With all the noise from this and other things, the anniversary of another event is getting less fanfare, perhaps because it did not occur within recent memory.

One hundred-fifty years ago today, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the greatest speeches of all time – the Gettysburg Address. The speech is vintage Lincoln – brief, yet powerful. Of all the things that have been said about it, I like best the remarks of the man who delivered what was supposed to be the keynote speech of the day, Edward Everett, who wrote Lincoln the next day to say “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Perhaps the best way to observe the anniversary is to take two minutes to re-read the address. The Library of Congress has an excellent online exhibit where one can view actual drafts of Gettysburg Address in Lincoln’s own hand, the Everett letter, and photographs of the event. Unlike the Kennedy anniversary, there is no video or footage of Walter Cronkite covering the event. But, on the plus side, there are no pundits speculating about what the observation of this anniversary means for the 2016 presidential race – I hope.

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From Council to Counsel: Reflections of a Lawmaker Turned Law Student

At the time I applied for admission to law school, I had been serving on Racine, Wisconsin’s City Council for six years. Attorneys I knew told me that my experience as a legislator would help me with my legal studies. They were right, but I don’t think any of us considered that it would be a two-way street.

Before I go further, I should note that being an Alderman in Racine is a vastly different experience from serving on a council in a city like Chicago or Milwaukee. My job is most decidedly part time, as is the pay. The relative size of the jobs, however, isn’t the only thing that makes them different.

Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno recently illustrated this. Chick-fil-A’s CEO made public statements opposing gay marriage, which upset, among many others, Alderman Moreno. “Because of this man’s ignorance,” said Alderman Moreno, “I will now be denying Chick-fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the First Ward.” In Mr. Moreno’s world, this likely unconstitutional action will probably go unchallenged in any real way. In my world, I would get a rebuke from the City Attorney, a hammering in the local press, and probably a lawsuit.

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Advice to New Law Students

As Ben Stone, one of my favorite TV lawyers, once said, “All clichés are true.” One is particularly true in law school — don’t miss the forest for the trees. Our classes and the studying that accompanies them are certainly the most important thing we have going. This is a school, and we are here to learn to be lawyers. However, classes are not the only way we learn that. If you let your classes become your trees, you will miss the forest that is Marquette Law School, which, if you let it (and you should), will teach you more than just the law. I was prepared to torture the law-school-as-forest comparison into a severely strained metaphor involving trees, plants, trails, streams, and woodland animals, but I’ll spare you. Instead, I’d like to offer some advice on making the most of your law school experience.

Get wired in. If you have a smartphone, put your MU email on it. If not, get in the habit of checking it regularly. Law school is like a job, and you don’t want to miss a memo from the boss. I can’t count how many times I answered, “Where did you hear that?” with, “It was in our email.” Don’t find out your class was cancelled by being one of three people sitting alone in the classroom for fifteen minutes. Don’t find out about free food by watching the last of it parade by in the hands of your email-checking classmates. Definitely don’t find out the parking garage is closed for the day by rolling up to the FULL sign, fifteen minutes before class starts. That last one really hurts.

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