Supreme Court Justice: Study now for success later

10/27/2008 - By: Jon Fortenbury

In an intimate setting composed of about 50 students and faculty, Nevada Supreme Court Justice Michael Douglas combined humor and advice as he spoke at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Center for Student Cultural Diversity on Oct. 22.

Douglas covered many topics, including the upcoming presidential election, and the importance of education and diversity. Between talking about his past, which ranged from teaching at a community college to being the first African American appointed to the Nevada Supreme Court, Douglas gave relative advice about how to succeed.

“What you are doing now is you’re preparing yourself to succeed,” Douglas said. “The most important thing you are learning is you’re learning how to think.”

Under the impression he’d enter the family business of teaching, Douglas never expected he would attend law school, let alone end up a Supreme Court justice. His friends motivated him to enter law school. Because of this, he explained to students the importance of who they surround themselves with.

“Be around people who are trying to do something and who are going in a positive direction,” Douglas said.

Instead of encouraging students who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, Douglas continued to emphasize the importance of thinking.

“Whether you believe in Obama or you believe in McCain, the question is how did you get there?” Douglas asked. “Did you find that out yourself or did you just accept what someone told you? Did you investigate? Did you have curiosity? Is it your opinion? Because in the dark parts of your life when things are not going well, all you have is your own beliefs.”

Though he spoke to a diverse audience, Douglas didn’t try to pretend the 21st century brought complete deliverance from racism.

“Are we better off than we were before? Yes we are,” Douglas said. “But are we a true color blind society? No we‘re not.”

Matthew Polasko thought Douglas covered a lot of important things in an intriguing way and acted as a role model.

“I think for the center to be hosting him is important, especially for minority students to come see him and come see a role model,” said Polasko, a 19-year-old chemical engineering major from Las Vegas, Nev. “Because in Nevada especially, it‘s hard to find any role model.”

The role model role is what Fabienne McPhail Naples, associate vice president of student services, hoped Douglas would fill for students, especially for freshmen.

“We invited him to speak so he could do multiple things,” Naples said. “One was to show that you can reach your dreams and your goals. We wanted him to describe the process of getting there and speak directly to students about the importance of staying in undergraduate and graduate study, which he did.”


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