I am pleased to host a guest post today from Vincent Lau, BC Law ’97. Alumni, please note that the Sung sisters will be special guests speakers for the Alumni Assembly at this year’s Reunion on November 3. If this is your reunion year, we hope you will attend! ABACUS will be screened earlier that day on the Law School campus, and the Rappaport Center will also host a panel discussion after the screening, open to all.
ABACUS premieres on PBS Frontline on September 12.
I was recently invited to a special screening of the new PBS documentary film ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail. First of all, a disclaimer: this is not a film review. I have no credentials to dissect whether ABACUS was well done from a technical or an artistic standpoint. What I can share are my reactions, and this documentary resonated with me on several fronts. The fact that the story (and film) involves several BC Law alumnae makes it even more compelling for our community. I would encourage everyone to go see it.
Abacus is a community bank located in the heart of New York’s Chinatown. Thomas Sung, an immigrant and a lawyer, opened the bank so that he could meet the needs of the people there. He later convinced two of his four daughters (one a BC Law alum) to join him, by arguing that working in a community bank lending money to local entrepreneurs is an important and effective way of giving back to the community. Continue reading
In April, I had the privilege of presenting a talk to the Boston College community as part of BC’s Graduate Student’s Association’s program GradTalks. It’s an annual event that provides a forum for a diverse selection of graduate students to present ideas that interest them. I spoke about felon disenfranchisement, and what we have to do in Massachusetts to overcome barriers to voting rights.
Watch the video after the jump.
“What kind of law are you going to practice?”
It’s a question every incoming law student is bombarded with from the moment they register for the LSAT, but I never felt fully prepared to answer it. I was interested in dozens of legal paths before law school, and a year at Boston College has only broadened my interests.
Over winter break I watched The Pianist. As the film opens, the main character is playing live on the radio in 1939—just as Warsaw is being bombed by Germany. With the bombs falling, the pianist rushes home. His family is Jewish, and his sister is a young lawyer.
The bombing continues for days. The family is relieved when France and Britain announce that they have declared war on Germany, but no nation comes to their rescue, and before long Warsaw is under the umbrella of one ideology. The pianist and his family, who are forced to wear blue Star of David armbands and are not allowed to work, eventually are relocated to a Warsaw ghetto. The pianist is separated from his family by a friend serving in the Jewish Ghetto Police. It is a heartbreaking moment as the rest of the family—including the pianist’s sister—are shoved into a cargo train and sent to their certain deaths.
That scene and the sister’s character arc have haunted me this entire semester. Although the movie is primarily focused on the pianist, I wanted to know more about her, what she was thinking—as an attorney, she must have agonized over the supposed legal justifications as the Jewish population lost their jobs, then their homes, until finally they were transported to the Treblinka extermination camp. What I found so frightening (and chilling) about the sister is that despite being a lawyer, she was unable to protect her family. Under the circumstances, what could she have done?
Everything was moving so fast. In a time of war, Poland’s civil society and its institutions were collapsing. The moment was bigger than one person, one attorney, or one Jewish woman.
But it still haunts me. And I have not been able to shake that feeling.
On Saturday, April 22, thousands of people in cities and towns throughout the United States and around the world will be marching to show public support for science. There will be a march on the Boston Common from 1-4 PM. I hope you will join me!
I am marching for science because I believe we need a scientifically literate society. There are profound scientific issues facing our civilization. These issues include the acceleration of automation, developments in artificial intelligence and gene-editing technology, the race to find cures to diseases, adaptation to a changing climate, and the expansion of humanity’s presence in the solar system. We need a scientifically literate society to confront these challenges and so many more. We need a scientifically literate society so that we can openly innovate and build new industries that will create the opportunities of tomorrow. And we need leaders who will enact evidence-based policies and pull us towards a higher enlightenment.
As law students and future lawyers, we know that the legal profession is a noble one that is committed to defending and searching for the truth. Science too is a noble pursuit.
The words of Ibn al-Haytham particularly resonated with me:
“Finding truth is difficult. And the road to it is rough. As seekers of the truth you will be wise to withhold judgment and not simply put your trust in the writings of the ancients. You must question and critically examine those writings from every side. You must admit only to argument and experiment, and not to the sayings of any person. For every human being is vulnerable to all kinds of imperfection. As seekers of the truth we must also suspect and question our own ideas as we perform our investigations, to avoid falling into prejudice or careless thinking. Take this course and truth will be revealed to you.” —Ibn al-Haytham, who was a scientist during the Golden Age of Science in Muslim civilization and who understood the scientific method 200 years before the Enlightenment reached Europe
Here is more information about the March for Science in Boston:
I am delighted to host a guest post from the brilliant and fabulous Maria Benvenuto. Maria is a 2L from Massapequa, NY. At BC Law, she serves as the Vice President of the Woman’s Law Center, Co-President of the Native American Law Student Association, an Admissions Ambassador, a member of the LSA Admissions Committee, and a staff writer for the Journal of Law and Social Justice. This summer she will be working in New York City and she is interested in working in labor and employment law. Maria can be reached by email at email@example.com.
“When you strip away all of the labels, the conversation is just about people.”
That is the sentiment that Rosie Rios, the 43rd treasurer of the United States, embedded throughout her presentation to the BC Law community on March 22nd. Ms. Rios was the longest serving treasury official, beginning her career on the Treasury/Federal Reserve Transition Team in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. Upon resigning in 2016, Ms. Rios received the Hamilton Award, the highest honor presented in the US Department of the Treasury. She is a graduate of Harvard University, and is the first Latina to have a portrait commissioned in her honor on their campus. Most notably, Rosie Rios is known for spearheading efforts to place a picture of the first woman on US currency; the design will be revealed on August 26, 2020, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote under the 19th Amendment.
If you are ever looking for a brutally honest opinion of yourself, swallow your pride and ask a five year old.
In the years I spent working with kids at a community non-profit, I had the pleasure of hearing such gems as, “Miss Morgan, your tummy looks like my mommy’s when there’s a baby inside!” and “Did you know you look a lot less pretty when you wear your glasses?” Though some took these remarks seriously, one look at the sweet little faces from which the comments sprang forth never failed to make me laugh out loud. The children who attended these programs, often with the help of scholarships and sliding-scale payment plans, were typically filled with a joy and sense of innocence that made me absolutely love my job. All too often, however, these amusing little observations were juxtaposed with unfettered comments about living situations that revealed just how much these kids had been through in their short lives. I cannot forget the five-year-old who told me she wanted to kill herself because she missed her father so much, or the look of shame in an eleven-year-old’s eyes when his mother arrived to pick him up while high on drugs. I often felt frustrated by my inability to help these kids beyond passing the information along to DCF. I wanted so desperately to be able to advocate for these children in a way that went beyond simply telling someone higher up than me.
She was only seventeen when she realized she was pregnant. Having grown up in a predominantly white town in Ohio, she knew better than to bear a black man’s child, especially at that age. An adopted child herself, she decided someone else could provide her son a better life than a struggling high school student could. But my mother suddenly changed her mind seconds after holding me; by and large, my life’s greatest blessing. The struggles that would confront her may not have been clear at the moment, but she was willing to sacrifice plenty: forgoing college dreams, working multiple low wage jobs to put food on the table, being shunned by family for the color of her child’s skin, and most of all, being forced to do so alone. It was the nights that I awoke to her muffled sobs, seeing her still dressed in dirty waitressing clothes, that impacted me the most. I learned early on in life that the cards may not always be in your favor and that some people have to work harder to succeed. Yet by witnessing her struggle, I ultimately learned the value of resiliency and hard work. My mother’s perseverance instilled an insatiable hunger and an unrelenting drive, which ultimately would guide me through life. Continue reading
Governor Martin O’Malley may have taken a step back from the national stage to reflect and teach in suburban Newton, Massachusetts, but he is certainly not shying away from the issues at the heart of current American politics. In a talk entitled “Restoring Integrity to Our Democracy” at Boston College Law School on Tuesday, Gov. O’Malley contemplated the conditions that resulted in President Donald Trump’s election and urged action on a series of fronts in order to protect and revitalize our democratic system of government.
The former Governor of Maryland and Mayor of Baltimore, who just last year shared a debate stage with Democratic Party candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, struck an ominous tone at the outset about the current state of the country. He warned of the dangers of the President’s ideology, which he called “Trumpism,” before rejecting Pope Francis’ recent suggestion that we should “wait and see” what President Trump does before judging him. “Our political institutions are in a state of crisis,” he said. “Now we must ask what each of us will do.”
Note: see our related post for a BC Law perspective on the march in Washington DC.
In the aftermath of Election Day, I experienced what can only be described as grief in its many defined stages. Like many others, I denied the reality of a Trump presidency, clinging to some false hope that this was all simply a nightmare. I was angry, constantly resisting the urge to lash out at those who seemingly did not grasp the gravity of the situation. My rational mind eliminated the possibility for bargaining before it even began, leaving me depressed and dejected in the face of the never-ending daily news cycles. I waited, almost hoping for the day when it would all be okay, the day when I would finally come to terms with the next four years, accepting the new administration in all of its inconceivability. But I simply could not reach the point of acceptance.