Monday, March 28, 2005

Candidate Statement: Suehiko Ono

Suehiko Ono
ACS Board Application
Running for Vice President, Special Initiative position

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?

In Zen practice we take the Bodhisattva vow to “save all beings.” I lived at a Zen monastery for two years after college, and every morning we would recite this vow aloud. It is an impossible vow, an ideal, but the shear repetition forces one to try. But it is not the repetition of this vow that creates this commitment. The vow is more like a lens that allows one to see the connection one has always had to all other beings. It is a reaffirmation of a truth everyone knows in their hearts. I have been committed to social justice since I can remember. That is one of the main reasons that I went to the Zen monastery to begin with. And it was because of this vow that I decided to leave the monastery.
While living at the monastery I had been farming organically, and I came to learn the central role that agriculture and food play in social justice and ecology. I saw it as a practical avenue by which I could fulfill this vow. Indeed, I am still convinced of the important role agriculture plays, but while I was farming over the past five years, I realized that the problems run deeper than the topsoil. This is where my interest in the U.S. Constitution began, which has brought me here to law school. I see in our country in a struggle with roots that extend back to Europe. It is a struggle for inclusion in the public sphere. This struggle is fought, in part, over the Constitution.
I think the ACS Board Election FAQ’s expresses well my reasons for wanting to join the board. “Founded in 2001, ACS is comprised of law students, lawyers, scholars, judges, policymakers, activists and other concerned individuals who are working to ensure that the fundamental principles of human dignity, individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice are in their rightful, central place in American law.”
I would like to play a substantial role in this worth while endeavor. I see it as an opportunity for education as well as a possibility to make a real contribution to the progressive legal community.
I have been inspired by recent discussions about the Constitution in the 21st Century Project, and I am excited by the prospect of playing a core role in this. Another interest I have is to explore the challenge to corporate personhood. This would trace the history of corporate personhood from its judicial creation in the late 19th Century and the role that it has played with respect to the individual’s access to the political sphere and protections under the Constitution. I see this issue as fundamental to addressing the disproportionate role that corporate executives play in making political and economic decisions thereby excluding the average citizen. Perhaps this is a bit quixotic, but I see this forum, the ACS, as ideal to explore some of the more risky and far-fetched ideas that we, as legal professionals, may not be able to address later in our careers.
Also, stemming from my commitment to democracy, I would like create more procedures, like our discussions about the Constitution in the 21st Century Project, that draw from the experiences and ideas of Columbia students. The reason that I value democracy is because of my faith in the human spirit and potential. I believe that broad inclusion in the public sphere will help to progress civilization because each person has a unique perspective and human potentiality. We do ourselves a disservice when we don’t utilize these resources. In the same way, I believe that by tapping into law students’ experiences and ideas, ACS benefits. While law students don’t have the experience or expertise of the legal professionals and scholars, they bring the beginner’s mind to the table. They are not limited by spheres of acceptable discussion so the spectrum of debate would be expanded to include ideas that other, more experienced, more prudent individuals may not dare to address for any number of reasons. This, I believe, will enrich the progressive legal culture as a whole.


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