‘The sport of argument:’ Nathaniel DeMelis and a Commitment to Justice

Over the 2022 holiday break, the BC Law Impact blog is running a series of some of the most powerful and fascinating admissions essays from first-year students. These personal statements, submitted as part of their admissions applications, tell a variety of compelling stories, but the thread connecting them all is an example of the kind of person who is attracted to a BC Law education: one who is driven to work collaboratively with others, achieve great things and make a real difference in the world.

We want to thank the Office of Admissions, and all of the student essay writers, for agreeing to share their stories with us. For more Admissions tips and other content, check out BC Law’s new TikTok channel.

Be it the penchant for holiday arguments, or the lessons of my late grandfather, my family has consistently shaped my growth and founded my interest in the law. 

In an Italian family that frequently exercises their freedom of speech in the sport of argument, it can be difficult to get a word in edgewise—especially around the holiday dinner table. There exists only a brief window of opportunity to make your point, and make it well, before you will either be refuted or simply shouted down.

Growing up, the sport of argument practiced by my family frequently led to conflicts between myself and my parents. I would plead my case when I was caught, explaining for one reason or another just why my sister deserved to be hit with a pillow or why I simply needed to eat those extra cookies. Yet my father would refute my points with the cool efficiency and due diligence that comes with being an experienced accountant. What seemed, to me, to be iron-clad arguments were always left in shambles. In order to win, I learned how to craft better arguments, anticipate angles, and remain objective.

The skills in objective analysis gained from my constant familial argumentation gave me the footing on which to pursue many extracurricular experiences, many of which helped to shape my enjoyment of the law. Due to the influence of my family, I was able to objectively analyze arguments so as to better understand both sides of an issue. This objectivity was useful in my work on the Tulane University Board of Student Conduct. My work on the board required me to be exacting in my scrutiny of the facts and to separate my personal opinion from the reality of the situation to adjudicate cases. And nothing prepares one better for separating personal opinions than arguing with one’s parents.

This instance marks only one of the many impacts my family has had on my growth, and on my decision to pursue the law. As a young boy, my grandfather grew up in a small town in the north of Italy that was under Nazi occupation. My grandfather was one of the strongest people I knew—biking four miles to school each day, avoiding unwanted attention, just to gain an education. Multiple times, my grandfather was questioned by Nazis—frequently witnessing the execution of boys no older than he. Yet through all of this, he remained committed to his pursuit of learning.

In what would be the last conversation I had with my grandfather, he asked that I remain focused on my education, and I assured him I would.

My grandfather, through his words and his story, not only endowed me with a commitment to justice (conveyed through his unjust treatment at the hands of the Nazis), but also a keen understanding of the value of education.

Due to the influence of my grandfather, I was inspired to pursue a degree in law. I became particularly interested in the study of Constitutional law, so I could better understand and defend the rights of others.

That being said, legal scholarship is equally as important—one must be committed not only to upholding the rule of law, but to passing on knowledge to future generations. Eventually, I would like to obtain my LLM, so that I can adequately understand a given sector and—as a professor—pass this insight on to others. My studies abroad at the University of Cambridge and discussions with peers and professors have convinced me of the merits of such a degree beyond a standard JD.

Sharpened by my family and emboldened by my grandfather, I hope to secure justice and defend the rights of those who feel their rights have been infringed upon. And perhaps law school will even give me an advantage during the holiday season.

Nathaniel DeMelis is a first-year student at BC Law.

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