September 13, 2012 by Brian Focarino
It has been truly, unforgivably long since my last post. And, while I’ll hazard excuses, I said it here first.
It’s been full throttle since last spring. I moved back to the country from Edinburgh, Scotland in May, and spent the summer finishing up my Master’s thesis, which ended up focusing exclusively on the rhetoric of W&M’s Chancellor and alumnus Robert Gates. During the summer I also enjoyed life in D.C., working as a summer legal clerk for Verizon, working principally with Verizon’s outstanding corporate intellectual property practice group. I’m not sure there’s ever been a summer where I’ve learned so much or gotten more excited about an actual career path I may end up pursuing.
Since finishing up both of those commitments earlier last month, I’ve been back in Williamsburg enjoying the initial stages of being a law student. In four words: I am loving it. My peers and professors inspire and intimidate in turn with how sharp and accomplished they are, and I honestly feel as if I’ve learned more substantive, pragmatically necessary things in the past 3 weeks than I’ve learned from any other classes before this point in my life. I won’t lie – the academic work is the toughest I’ve ever done, and all the things I’ve read in my life up until this point, combined, seem like child’s play compared to the amount that I’ve been reading for school during the past month, but I’m seeing the point of it all. The Socratic method of learning employed by the law school (and feared by most law students) is truly teaching me how important it is to know your stuff and be able to defend your opinions, your thoughts and your contentions on your feet in front of other peers prepared to do the same.
If I had to distill my experience into a single moment so far, it would be this: last night, I had the privilege of attending a phenomenal dinner at the Alumni House with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as he was awarded the law school’s prestigious Marshall-Wythe Medallion, which is given by our faculty. Few other law students in the country can probably say that with only two weeks under their law school belt they were already having dinner with a Supreme Court Justice, as well as a host of some of Virginia and the nation’s most respected legal minds and practitioners.
As I was walking the short distance between the Alumni House and my own house last night after the dinner, it got me thinking about a letter that I’d seen earlier this summer in a book about the College that matched my sentiments exactly. The letter was written by Benjamin Crowninshield of Massachusetts, a student at the College, to Dr. B. Lynde Oliver, a friend, on May 30, 1804. In it, Ben said,
“The pleasing manner of this place would be sufficient to keep me here, but the advantages of the College, I should think would keep me here forever.”
While it’s true nothing lasts forever, the College – and Williamsburg more generally – are probably one of the closest things this country has to a place that honors its roots while living very squarely in the present. Writing over two hundred years later from the same place, in much the same position as fellow alum Ben, I could claim mostly the same sentiment.
That kindred instinct – amongst students even hundreds of years apart – defines what it means to be William & Mary.
In honor of that, I’ve taken at least one initial step to make sure that wherever I go, a bit of that feeling – and this old College – comes with me. My new plates arrived yesterday.
Brian ’11, ’15L