For many of us in the United States, these past 24 hours have been filled with emotion.  We experienced the  most inclusive voting in our country’s history, the election of the first African American president, the power of a people’s movement and the promise of change in the midst of very difficult times.  We recalled the struggles of people who fought for and waited long for change to “come to America”.  

As the cameras focused on Grant Park last night, they showed us an ideal:  a beautiful, joyful tapestry of our sister and fellow citizens of all ages, races, colors, national origin, sexual orientation,  with or without disability celebrating peacefully a non-violent transfer of power.   Those in Grant Park listened to John McCain’s most gracious concession speech which called upon all Americans not only to support President-elect Obama  but to honor the need to celebrate this historic moment. 

I have to admit the first thing on my mind has not been Best Practices.  And yet, as law professors and law students, we know that moments of cultural and political and global change demand new ways to think about and teach and learn law.   What does this moment mean for us?

I offer two thoughts.  First, more than ever, we need to acknowledge that laws, legal systems and law practice will change and adapt to the multi-racial America that we aspire to be.  This multi-racial identity is not only about demographic statistics, it is a way of being in the world and relating to that world.  In other words, it may be time to flesh out more broadly Best Practices call to teach cultural competence and to acknowledge the remaining cultural challenges to de facto equality under the law. 

Second, I suggest that the election informed us about the nature of the young people we are teaching and who we will be teaching over the coming years.   This is an engaged generation, reminiscent of those who changed legal education in the 1960’s but with a uniquely 21st century identity.  Like in the 1960’s, droves of college students and twenty-somethings fueled voter registration campaigns and made a major difference in the outcome of the Democratic primary.  However, this generation also uses technology in ways that are disciplined and playful.  The web technology used by the Obama campaign and “MoveON” organized volunteers nationally, replacing local phonebanking sites with savvy computerized programs which enabled volunteers to conduct and organize campaign work from their homes.  On the Republican side, young conservatives were responsbile for websites such as  “Draft Sarah Palin” long before the rest of us ever heard of Wasilla or “field dressing a moose. ” Finally, this generation follows through, disproving the pundits who warned that  “young people” would not actually vote in great numbers. 

As educators, the lesson of the election may well be that our teaching, likewise, needs to be engaged, technologically savvy, disciplined, playful and have follow through – just as Best Practices advises.  And so, what I take away from this election is joy not only in the historic moment for my country but joy in anticipating and welcoming into the classroom and into the law clinics this new and exciting generation.

2 Responses

  1. I am so glad you found a way to link Best Practices and the election. I volunteered in the “war room” working on Election Protection from 5 am to 9pm the day of the election. I had the privilege of working with many UNM law grads and other wonderful lawyers young and not so young! We answered phones and dealt with miscellaneous issues called in by Election Challengers from around the state. I loved working with such a fabulous group of caring, committed, professional and ethical lawyers. And, I am pleased to say, there did not seem to be any kind of voter suppression conspiracy or fraudulent voters. Just human errors…

    And the results of the election could not be more inspiring!

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Not fraudulent voters? What about ACORN? What about recruting drug addicts and homeless to register to vote?
    It is all joy for now. The truth will come out soon or later. Then the big blue ballon will just pop.

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