The Civil Rights movement which I associate initially with the Freedom Rides was the most pivotal time in my life and provided the framework for my politics, philosophy, and, I believe, my entire career. My own participation in the 'movement' stems from Civil Rights demonstrations and marches in the San Francisco Bay Area (I was a student a Berkeley from 1962-1969 and still live there) in 1962 and 1963. Of course, but for these early marches, sit-ins and the like there would have been no Free Speech Movement at Berkeley (the precipitating issue was the University's refusal to allow us to collect money on campus to support the civil rights movement both locally and nationally off campus) which in turn sparked the student- movement nationwide and I believe the anti-war movement itself.
During my second year of law school, I went to Jackson in 1967 to work on voter registration and legal issues. I worked with Law Students Civil Rights Research Council (LSCRRC) and lived with an African American family (I am white) in a small town outside of Jackson. The LSCRRC sent law students to the south. We had an orientation at Tugaloo and then dispersed to work with some of the great civil rights lawyers. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund was right down the street from us on Farish. It was dangerous, exciting, and incredibly rewarding. The experience had an incalculable effect on my life.
After my graduation from law school at Berkeley, I believe that my entire legal career has been shaped by the lessons I learned and passions that were flamed during my political work in Berkeley and Mississippi. Thus, it is no accident that I have worked with disenfrancished hispanics in the South Bronx, with those trapped in the criminal justice system during my time as a public defender, with the farmworker struggle in my work as an Administrative Law Judge with the Agricultural Labor Board in California, representing women and minorities in large class action sex and race discrimination actions, and now as Dean of the Univeristy of San Francisco School of Law where our mission is focused laser-like on Educating for Justice.
The civil rights movement molded a generation of activists. To be sure we have contradictions in our lives, but our commitment is something for which we should be proud. The world may be a mess, but we have made a difference. Something we should not forget.
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Last Modified: July 24, 2004