The first time I argued a case before the Chief Justice of the United States, I lost on a technicality buried in the complex rules of tic-tac-toe. In the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roberts and his co-counsel of second graders promptly declared that since I cheated in a game of tic-tac-toe, I should, as one “Justice” so eloquently phrased it, serve a life term “in the slammer!” I was only reprieved from punishment when the Chief Justice’s personal secretary interrupted “Court” to announce the arrival of juice boxes for snack time. Such was my life as the Visitor Programs Intern at the Supreme Court of the United States. I spent my summer hosting educational programming events for Court visitors of all ages—including using punishment for breaking the rules in tic-tac-toe as a mechanism for explaining the justice system. My job responsibilities did not, however, end there. Throughout the summer, I also gave public lectures in the Courtroom about the history, architecture, and function of the Supreme Court. I led private tours around the building for family, friends, and personal guests of the Justices. I compiled research for the Court’s Curator on extrajudicial activities of all former Supreme Court Justices, and created scavenger hunts for children through the dozens of Justice portraits in the Court’s main hall. Each day at the Supreme Court was different; whether I was consoling a swarm of angry protestors or entertaining the U.S. ambassador to France, I was never bored. Indeed, my summer was full of learning experiences, all of which shaped me into a better leader, learner, and communicator. Throughout my 12-week internship, I drew on past experiences at Villanova to shape what I wanted to get out of my time in Washington—and I came to fully understand why my GWS degree is so valuable.
On the second day of my internship, I sat in on a private luncheon Justice Sonia Sotomayor hosted with female judges and lawyers from Afghanistan. The women told Justice Sotomayor about the rampant gendered violence in their country, a place where women are killed simply for being women, and girls go to school at the risk of being tortured or raped. Justice Sotomayor spoke eloquently about the importance of female politicians in Afghani government, and expressed her fervent belief that justice will prevail in law, even amid Afghanistan’s struggles. I left the Court that day completely reaffirmed in my plans for the future. Using my English and Gender and Women’s Studies majors, I want to become a lawyer with a focus on gender issues and women’s rights. While I was naive about that area of the law when I first arrived at the Court, I expressed my interest in gender law to my supervisor in the Curator’s Office. Thanks to my supervisor’s influence, throughout the summer I repeatedly spoke with accomplished lawyers and judges from around the world, some of whom specialize in various aspects of gender rights law in places as varied as Bosnia, England, and Russia. I had the privilege of talking to Justice Ginsburg’s female law clerks about how the Justice’s career in gender law inspired them to become lawyers themselves. I gave tours to women who were from a generation when females were not accepted into American law schools, and met inspirational women from parts of the world where females in upper-level classrooms still seems an impossible dream. Each day, the experiences reaffirmed my passion and reminded of a lesson from a Philosophy of Women class or a Gender and the World course. It all showed me how the Supreme Court’s motto, “Equal Justice Under Law,” can apply to my own life. Each of my colleagues this summer worked toward that mission of equality in his or her own way. Luckily for me, through this internship, I rediscovered my own plans—the way I want to contribute to making the world a more just society. I know that my GWS degree will help me get there.