The following program was produced by
the United States courts. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of wonderful
mentors. My high school debate coach was a mentor and he was really hard on us.
And he really had high expectations, but that turned out to be a really good
thing. You want people that are harder than you and have high expectations. In
my early years the most remarkable things that were going on was the civil
rights movement in the United States. Although that was something that I was
always aware of, my family talked about all the time, I decided at the age of
five I wanted to be a lawyer. And it never occurred to me at least in my
younger years that that would be you know exceptionally difficult or
different or unique for me as a black woman to be a lawyer. Because really from
the time I first started articulating that I wanted to be a lawyer my father
was very encouraging of me. And it was many years later before I came to
understand how special that was. Particularly when I met other women my
age whose parents didn’t even encourage them to go to college because that was
something their sons were going to do but their daughters just needed to get
some work skills and then get married and have children. I didn’t have that
kind of discouragement from my family at all. From the very beginning it was: you
want to be a lawyer you’re going to be a lawyer. When I went on to Law School I
had Law School professors that again seemed to push me by setting the bar
higher than I would have set for myself perhaps. When I graduated from law school
my first position was as a law clerk for a federal bankruptcy judge. And he was
someone that taught me so much about life and the practice of law, in
litigation and again set the bar really high for me. I’ll never forget you know
as a two-year clerkship and near the end of that two-year clerkship he said to me
it’s time for you to go. And I said what do you mean, are you kicking me out?
It’s not it’s not quite time. He says no I’m not kicking you out but it is time
for you to go. I’ve seen you grow a lot in the last couple of
years. This is not the type of position that you would be happy doing for many
years or for a career. It’s time for you to get out there and be a lawyer and
start lawyering. The process of becoming a district court judge is really difficult
and unique. It’s a presidential appointment it’s a lifetime appointment
with the advice and consent of the Senate, so you go through a Senate
confirmation hearing and it’s a very oftentimes a very long drawn-out process.
And there was another point in the process that brought tears to my eyes. I
had an interview at the White House by the White House Counsel. I had been
to the White House as a kid on a tour but I’ve never been to the White House
sense. So here I am, I go through the security at the gate and I’m walking up
that big circle Drive and I remember something my grandmother had told me.
My grandmother had long since passed away but I remember her telling me how
proud she was to read about Mary McLeod Bethune, who was a civil rights pioneer.
Being invited to the White House by Eleanor Roosevelt and at least in my
grandmother’s thinking an african-american woman had never been
invited to the White House as a guest. And she was invited there to have tea
with Eleanor Roosevelt and how special that was and how great that was and how
proud the African American community was that Mary McLeod Bethune got invited to
the White House. And as I was walking up that circle drive all I could think of
was my grandmother and how I wish my grandmother could be going to that
interview with me and holding my hand and walking up to the White House with
me. Because I can tell you when my grandmother told me that story, I never
could’ve foreseen myself doing something like that. I mean as I’ve said you know
you never can dream big enough sometimes. I think we can be overly confident and
cocky as a kid yet you still never really know all that’s in store for you. You just
need to make sure that you are ready and positioned and able ruling to accept all
that comes your way