Thursday, August 28, 2014

40 Years Ago Tonight

August 28, 1974

It was the Feast of St. Augustine at Georgetown University, a/k/a "America's Roman Catholic Harvard."

Forty years ago tonight, I went to Gaston Hall at Georgetown University with my new freshman friends. We watched Ralph Nader talk. And talk. And talk. "Talk a starving dog off a meat wagon!" (Like I did with the University of Florida Levin College of Law in mediation with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Commissioner, Hank Groton, Jr. here in St. Augustine on Monday, August 25th).

Ralph Nader talked about corrupt oligopolists, government bureaucrats, "the deferred bribe," unsafe cars, unsafe good, unsafe drugs, meaningless political parties, crooked lobbyists, crooked lawyers, and everything under the Sun.

Then he answered questions. He said he would answer questions as long as we wanted to ask them. There were about twelve of us left (including my friend Edward Francis McElwain) at about 10:30 pm. He answered every single question. He talked about public service, and making a difference in peoples' lives. He made quite an impression upon me.

The experience of hearing Ralph Nader changed my life.

The very next morning (August 29, 1974), I volunteered to work for Senator Ted Kennedy, first as a free intern and then as a volunteer, 2.5 days per week as a freshman and sophomore.

The next morning after that (August 30, 1974), I started my first class. What a letdown. Ted Kennedy's office staff was more fun! Ted Kennedy served in the U.S. Senate for some 47 years -- the best U.S. Senator, ever. Working with the likes of Mary Murtagh, Melody Miller McElligott, Carey W. Parker, et al. taught me lessons for life. He had the smartest most effective staff in Washington, D.C. It was an honor and a privilege to work there.

I learned so much more on Capitol Hill than I ever did in many of my classes. That's why I was flummoxed Monday, when a University of Florida lawyer actually questioned my undergraduate grade point average. That's some pretext to respond to a prima facie case of age, disability and retaliation discrimination before the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. How hopelessly provincial and out of touch with reality is the University of Florida Levin College of Law and its administration?

The whole world is watching.

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