Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits

For the second year in a row, I was fortunate enough to attend the Women Bar Association's Annual Awards Dinner. While the dinner was more low-key this year because Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (and you know how much I love Ruth) was not there this year and the economic climate sobered the mood and the number of sponsored tables, I had just as much fun this year.

This year's Woman Lawyer of the Year was Solicitor General Elena Kagan. You can just call her General. She has the kind of resume that every law student and lawyer aspires to have. Princeton, Oxford, Harvard Law. Supreme Court Law Clerk, Professor, White House Counsel to Bill Clinton. First female Dean of Harvard Law School and Solicitor General of the United States. And potentially the next Supreme Court Justice.

What I liked most about her though is how "down to earth" she seems. I know that term is cliche, but that is the only way I can describe it. Her self-depricating humor, how she does not try to mask her New York accent, how she got students free coffee and a skating rink at Harvard, and how she polled the audience of whether she should wear the Solicitor General's uniform. (Who knew that the SG had a uniform consisting of a morning coat with tails and pinstripe pants. I had no idea!)

The keynote speaker was also very inspiring. Meanne Verveer was Chief of Staff to then First Lady Hillary Clinton and is currently Obama's ambassador for global women's issues (kudos, btw, to the Obama administration for creating this position). The way she spoke about the hardships women must endure around the world, women that she has met, and projects that her office is working on was equally heart-wrenching as it was hopeful.

Then there was the judge I met at the VIP reception (my boss snuck me in). She was one of the earliest members of the Peace Corp in the 60s and went to India. She fell in love with a man from India and fought the "Peace Corps" bureaucracy to let her marry him, and fought them again when they wanted her to stop working when she was pregnant. She argued that being pregnant was not a disease and was able to continue her work. You could tell she has just as much fight in her as compassion, which to me makes a great lawyer or judge.

I could go on and on about other remarkable women that I met, but I will leave it there. Everytime I go to these Women Bar Association events, I feel the "girl power." I think now that I will actually have some free time next year, I want to do some kind of volunteer work. Whether it be a women's organization or just public service in general, we were reminded tonight that it is needed now more than ever. As economic times are tough, domestic violence goes up and people, particularly women, are afraid to speak out about injustices in their work place for fear of losing their jobs.

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