December of 2010
Long before I was a lawyer . . .
Long before I was a lawyer, I was a high school English teacher in inner-city Baltimore, Maryland. Before that, I was a student at Cornell, volunteering to tutor kids at a juvenile correctional facility. Before that, I was a kid in rural Pennsylvania, volunteering to mentor other kids at the local YMCA. Some things never change. In December of 2010, I started a speech & debate team at Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. Eventually, we had two kids from Boyd Anderson make it to the national championship tournament. Recently, I have met with Broward College regarding the prospect of establishing a nationally competitive debate team at the College. This is just who I am.
I have three core values to my life: family, health and service. These are the three most important things to me. I grew up in a small, working class town in Pennsylvania. When I was young, I spent a lot of time working manual labor and loading trucks. While neither of my parents earned college degrees, I was fortunate enough to attend Cornell University. I made it through Cornell working whatever odd jobs I could find. One winter, I worked the night shift on factory assembly line. During the semester, I had a research fellowship and even worked as a resident adviser. Over the summers, I did research or worked as a summer camp counselor.
Even after graduating from Cornell, I was never too proud to work construction or manual labor if I needed to make money and pay the rent. So standing here, having earned a law degree from Georgetown, worked at one of the nation’s best law firms, and now started my own practice, I look back on my life and I am humbled and thankful. It has been a long climb. And now, I feel that I owe a great debt. I have to pay it forward.
I want to see every kid in America have a fair chance at a good life. I want to see kids – especially ones from poor and working class families- have the opportunity to succeed. I know I had those opportunities. Yes, I have a great mom who has been my single biggest supporter and cheerleader. But I also had great teachers, great coaches, great mentors, great professors. I was given tremendous opportunities, through Cornell, Georgetown, the Goldman Sachs Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and even my former law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner.
So as I move forward, I just want to see other kids – whether they’re from my hometown of Fayetteville, PA or Baltimore City, MD – have the same opportunities I did. It’s not about giving people a handout. It’s just about giving kids a fair shot. Because so many kids in our country today don’t have that shot and don’t have anybody fighting for them. This is my credo. Help those in need. Defend the defenseless. Be my brothers’ keeper.
I like practicing law and I think I’m pretty good at it. But I can guarantee you this: Decades from now, long after I’m done practicing law, I will still be volunteering at a high school in my neighborhood, and pitching in wherever I can help.