Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Highest Court in the Land (and the People that Play Basketball There)

Today we went to visit the Supreme Court for a personal visit with some of the nation's coolest folks. After a walk from Capitol South that made my haven't-worn-heels-in-awhile feet cringe and making it through security, we headed up the marble stair case, past the oral argument room, into a back hallway and were stationed in a beautiful room with the seats crammed together to accommodate all forty-plus of us.

First on the agenda was Major General William K Suter (not related to the Supreme Court's spelled differently), the Clerk of the Court. Not the kind of clerk that writes opinions for the justices, but the guy who receives lawyer's applications for admission to the Supreme Court bar and supervises the management of the about 150 cases accepted for Supreme Court review each year. Mr. Suter was cool, not only because he was an Appellate Judge, Deputy Staff Judge Advocate of the US Army, Staff Judge Advocate of the 101st Airborne Division, Commandant of the JAG School and Assistant Judge Advocate Gender of the Army, but also because he has been clerk of the Supreme Court since 1991. That means, in a court that has only had 17 Chief Justices (or 18 if you count William Cushing, who may or may not have actually been a justice), Suter has seen a solid tenth of all the Chief Justices in action. The guy has been around.

Because of this career longevity, he was able to speak about the differences between the Chief Justices and how the different courts are influenced by the politics and legal reasoning of different justices. Infuriatingly, though, he refused to admit any ideological differences saying that "The truth is the truth" and that by careful examination of the facts, any justice would come up with the same answer. Tell that to Al Gore, my friend. He also provided insight into the occasional silliness of the Court, describing the basketball games played on the "highest court in the land" (the basketball court upstairs).

Next up was the venerable Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Later in the day, Stacey Abrams, State House Representative for the 84th District in the Georgia General Assembly (and 1994 Truman Scholar), spoke to us about her experiences in public service.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I Am Surrounded By Crazy People

Good crazy, but crazy all the same. Every person I talk to is INCREDIBLY smart and has a cause or policy interest they care about so much that they amaze you with their level of knowledge every time they open their mouths. They are starting schools in India and Kenya, running for office, writing agricultural and economic policy and clocking more volunteer hours than is reasonably possible. Downright crazy, and I am one of them. Welcome to the Truman Summer Institute Class of 2008! (To know just how crazy we are, please see this amazing youtube video written, directed, and acted by my Truman class outlining the scholarship application process. Make sure you catch all the parts).

Summer Institute (SI) kicks off with a week of activities designed to give us a look into different public service options and to encourage us to get the most out of our summer of DC internships. These activities are meant to be thought provoking, insightful, deep and inspiring. So, of course, the first thing we do is go on a dinner cruise.

According to their website, the Odyssey Cruise Ship DC is "the only vessel designed specifically to travel beneath the Potomac's historic bridges." The dining area, where they serve you a ridiculously luscious four course meal) is completely enclosed in glass. You can (when it isn't raining) see the monuments slide by as you eat dinner and dance on the dance floor to the live band playing the Cha-Cha Slide and YMCA.

The majority of the patrons seemed to be couples celebrating their anniversaries. I don't think they found it at all amusing to have forty recent college grads being rowdy on the dance floor, interrupting their dinners. The band loved us because we actually cheered for them.

A good time was had by all.