Monday, March 28, 2005

Candidate Statement: Mary Kelly Persyn

Name: __Mary Kelly Persyn

Class: __1L

Phone: __617 285 0842

Email: __mp2331

Position(s) Desired: ___President

Statement of Interest (1-2 pages):
Please address the following two questions in your statement:
1. Why are you interested in serving on the ACS Board?
2. As a board member, what ideas for programming would you like to implement next year?

1. Why are you interested in serving on the ACS Board?

I want to serve the ACS as President because the organization represents my strongest political and intellectual interests and centrally reflects my commitment to establishing equal justice for all. Participation on the Board during my first year cemented my commitment to the ACS and its members here at Columbia, and I know that the organization will continue to provide a central focus for my time and energy for the next two years and far beyond.

A. ACS is a dynamic organization focused on long-term strategy to advance progressive goals.

We face a conservative ascendancy stronger than anything our nation has seen in decades. The values held by progressives, including the establishment and support of fundamental rights to education, health care, and (minimally) subsistence levels of food and shelter, are under continual and vigorous attack. The Schiavo bill, passed by Congress to interfere in state-court determinations of medical decision surrogacy, threatens the constitutional separation of powers and looms large in the progress toward theocracy that our nation currently risks.

The American Constitution Society was formed in 2001 to counteract this conservative ascendancy, particularly in the judiciary and in constitutional law. It is a dynamic organization committed to building coalitions among progressives and planning a strategic path that extends far into the future. We must begin now to plan for the difficult decades ahead in order to successfully build a path toward the democratic and rationally bipartisan future necessary to our country’s survival. ACS gives us a way to contribute to this goal in meaningful ways while we are still law students, and as President of ACS, I can and will promote that participation to the extent of our resources and ability.

B. The Columbia Board offers a great opportunity to support the ACS nationally.

The ACS is a new organization striving to grow and organize at a national level. It has a special focus on law students and law schools, recognizing that tomorrow’s lawyers are the lifeblood of its future. ACS’ concentration on younger students and lawyers means that we have many opportunities to contribute beyond Columbia. I am especially interested in attending ACS conferences and events, including the Yale conference in April and the ACS National Convention in July. My interest in participating in ACS at a national level is another reason why I am running for President, but just as strong is my goal of encouraging as many Columbia students as possible to attend ACS National events as a group. This would strengthen the nationwide progressive network as well as raising the profile of Columbia ACS.

C. I want to lead the Board as President because I have many ideas about how to expand ACS activities, I have good organization and leadership skills, and I served actively on the Board during my 1L year.

I explain my ideas for expanding ACS in #2 below. My participation on the Board this year gave me insight into the priorities and interests of our membership. Other than basic responsibilities, my contributions this year included a weekly law-and-policy column and occasional other blog entries (beginning in January), organization of a panel discussion between Professors Waldron and Yoo in April, and current participation in the Columbia ACS working group on the Constitution in the 21st Century. In addition, I am working on developing an ACS Moot Court program (see #2A below).

My organization and leadership skills are also demonstrated by my organization of a Gender and Public Speaking event in January (in conjunction with the Columbia Law Women’s Association); my other extracurricular activities this year included Frederick Douglass Moot Court and the staff of the Journal of Gender and Law.

Of all my law school commitments, ACS is the single most important. I believe that ACS gives all progressives a way to imagine a future beyond an unimaginable and otherwise unthinkable present. I would be honored to serve that vision and this organization as President.

2. As a board member, what ideas for programming would you like to implement next year?

A. Moot court

I am currently working with ACS President Liz Aloi and Board Member Keith Bradley to develop an ACS Moot Court program. The program will invite all law schools with an ACS chapter to participate in a nationwide constitutional-law moot court competition. The first one will be held at Columbia in the spring of 2006, with the final round at the ACS National Convention in July. The problem will be written by a team of students from the host law school, which will rotate yearly.

Here at Columbia, the program will offer 1Ls interested in constitutional law another way to fulfill their moot court requirement. In addition, upper-class students could also participate if they so choose. The program will also heighten ACS’s profile at Columbia, thereby increasing our membership.

On a national level, the moot court program provides us a way to heighten our profile with ACS National (Columbia will be known as the founder of the moot). In addition, the program will support key ACS National initiatives by providing a laboratory of ideas about the Constitution in the 21st Century project (we will select the fact pattern topic from among those identified by that program). The moot court program can play an important role in increasing ACS involvement nationwide and encouraging more law students and young lawyers to give their time and energy to the American Constitution Society during law school and into their careers.

This program will mean a major expenditure of time and effort on the part of CLS ACS students and the larger institution. Therefore, once the new year has started, we will need to have a conversation about our priorities as a chapter and how this program might fit them. I look forward to leading that inquiry and working with my fellow ACSers to put this vision into action.

B. More outreach and co-sponsoring with identity groups at Columbia

ACS has a good relationship with identity groups at Columbia. I know that we can strengthen that relationship even more, thereby increasing our membership, accessing new ideas and perspectives, and building our all-important progressive network for law school and beyond.

Since our interests and commitments are in significant alignment with those of the identity groups, we should co-sponsor more events. I would also like to look into the possibility of co-sponsoring a major year-long initiative around a constitutional law issue—and, if it matches the interests and commitments of our members, spinning that initiative into a symposium (see below).

C. Spring symposium focused on a Constitution in the 21st Century initiative that we choose

In line with ACS National’s priority program, The Constitution in the 21st Century, and with the moot court program and the co-sponsored initiative explained above, it makes sense to think about tying all of these elements into a capstone symposium in the spring. It will give us an opportunity to cement our relationships with other campus groups and to pull together the results of a year of idea generation among the moot court participants.

It will also give us the opportunity to bring some prominent speakers onto campus, including present ACS Board members. We could consider arranging panels such that students who are expert in the topic also have an opportunity to participate alongside our invited speakers. We could use the symposium to pull together research and ideas, present new information and strategies, work toward publication of position papers, and engage in the all-important strengthening of the progressive network.

Most importantly, we can use our ACS programming to build our own agency and to insist on the possibility of hope. Rev. King knew that “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” We are at a low point of the arc, but we have to believe that we travel in the direction of justice. I would be honored to serve the Columbia American Constitution Society as President for a year in the life of that journey.


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