An update from Sarah, a senior political science major and human rights minor who is investigating John Paul Stevens’ jurisprudential evolution on the death penalty during his tenure on the Supreme Court:
We’re back in Dallas, and while I’m thrilled to be home with Emmy (my munchkin), I find that I very much miss D.C., our work in the Library of Congress and the amazing group of people with whom I traveled. It is difficult to offer a summation of everything I’ve learned from this experience and how much it means to me, but here’s a shot at it.
I know this opportunity is not one many students, especially at the undergraduate level, ever have. I feel especially fortunate because, as a nontraditional student, I never thought I would have the chance to so thoroughly pursue something I’m so passionate about. Conducting preliminary research before the trip, I fell in love with my research topic. Now I find I’ve fallen in love with the research process as well.
It is truly ineffable to hold and read through these documents, knowing that many of them forever changed the course of American history. I found myself choked up during our orientation brief – oh, yes, I’m THAT person – when Jeff Flannery, head of the Manuscript Division, passed around documents to give us a feel as to the kinds of things housed in the library. One of them was a series of notes from Justices Douglas, Burton and Frankfurter to Chief Justice Earl Warren, regarding his school desegregation opinion in Brown v. Board of Education. Justice Frankfurter’s opens, “This is a day that will live in glory.” Even then I didn’t realize the extent to which this opportunity would strengthen my understanding of and passion for American constitutional law.
Additionally, I feel honored to be included with such an amazing group of people. I think it’s really interesting how a single shared experience – by which I mean the trip overall, not the harrowing experience of crossing Van Dorn traffic on the way to and from the metro station – can bring people from different backgrounds and personalities together so solidly. Our research findings will be shared in our papers, but I’d also like to share some things I’ve learned about my classmates.
I’ve learned that Catherine and James (i.e., Potatoe-Dan) are two of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and I’ve enjoyed every conversation with them. James has educated me on things Jersey Shore, as well as several other things that make me terrified to have a daughter growing up in this world, and I admire his thoughtfulness and honesty. Catherine, despite being model-gorgeous, is hilarious even when she’s not saying a word – she has the best reactive expressions, and we laughed our way through D.C.
I’ve learned that Hannah, despite the weird sleeps-in-white-gloves/laugh-game-stuff, is incredibly kind and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. This became apparent in the form of a “do not touch my stuff” note to the hotel cleaning staff (too bad they stopped cleaning my and Ashley’s stuff, too!). I’ve found that Ashley and I see eye to eye on a lot of things – yes, despite the considerable height difference – and she truly has a beautiful soul. Any time I’ve questioned myself in this class, Ashley and Kevin have offered unwavering support, for which I’m extremely grateful, and I love you both. Kev is the kind of student I aspire to be – smart, focused and confident in his intellectual capabilities. There’s not a doubt in my mind we’ll see him as a major player in the political arena someday.
I’ve learned that Martha can – and indeed, will – sleep almost anywhere, a talent I wish I possessed! She’s also funny and very kind-hearted and tends to meet famous people on planes. Brandon is a great person to be stuck on a train with – thanks for helping me laugh through that situation, Bubba – and thankfully his phone stays charged much longer than mine. He also emphatically HATES Ronald Reagan. Amanda copes under pressure with incredible poise and has mastered the art of light packing and looking fabulous every day.
Vanessa successfully juggles a career, school, and caring for her family, and I admire her patience and diplomacy. Plus – even though the spinach-artichoke dip at Hawk and Dove absolutely kicked her rear – she can finagle free ice cream from We the Pizza! Amy can teach anyone how to use chopsticks using a ponytail holder and thinks the underground Metro station looks like some kind of inter-galactic space thing, which is a really nice spin on a dirty underground tunnel. She also recalls incredible detail in her blogs, which is great because with so much going on, I think I missed almost every comment she’s written about! April is sweet and pretty, works hard (even after the rest of us have stopped for the day), and is the kind of person who makes you believe she’ll achieve her goals – it’ll be fun to say I know Miss Texas.
As for our fearless leader, the trip wouldn’t have been what it was without his leadership and guidance. I think his gift for what he does is tremendous, and I’m honored he saw something in me to make him think I should be included with such an incredible group of people.
Thank you all, so much, for allowing me to be a part of your lives for the past week and for being a part of mine. I will never forget this experience, nor will I forget the people who made it what it was for me; you have all touched my life in a very special way.