March 14, 2019
Every so often I read applications for a scholarship to Vanderbilt Law School, the same scholarship I received back in 1980. Our little selection committee is given 9 or 10 pre-selected files and is asked to rank the applicants who made this cut. There are no particular criteria for our rankings because all of these pre-selected applicants have outstanding academic backgrounds. We simply pour over them and see which appeal to us.
The exercise brings out a range of emotion in me. I am humbled by their academic achievement at this point in their lives. They are frequently multi-lingual, well versed in both science and literature, technology savvy, perfectionist in their pursuits, all in contrast to my relatively inconsistent efforts and results.
I am further humbled by their out of classroom endeavors, their empathy in action for the less fortunate, their overcoming their own broken families or their poverty, and their awareness of their own privilege.
I envy their being at the starting line of a race I have already run. They are understandably ignorant, blessedly ignorant, of many of the challenges and pitfalls ahead, and they are confident that they will overcome whatever stands in their way, not knowing that they will invariably suffer irremediable losses.
I am grateful to have survived what they are facing with as much joy and satisfaction as I have experienced, notwithstanding the pain and loss.
I am amused by their bullshit, their efforts to create in print a persona that is beyond even the amazing beings that they are and will become. That persona will take some serious hits, and I hope it will survive, refined and hardened in refiner’s fire.
I am inspired by their belief that they can change a world that stubbornly resists all such efforts.
Spring is coming, and with it another generation with the best of aspirations and amazing talents.
If you have been reading about the privileged gaining access to elite academic institutions through the “side door,” take heart. There are thousands of young people out there of fine character, hard working, brilliant, compassionate, and determined.