Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Bar Exam Journey

How in the world did I get back to Valparaiso, Ind., after taking the Missouri bar exam in Jefferson City, Mo?

Emotionally dazed and confused after a grueling two days of the highest-pressure exam I’d ever encountered, I left the motel in Jeff City and got into my 1980 Olds Omega. Though this car was only six years old, it had already seen better days. Thankfully, it had somehow gotten me to the exam site on the day before bar, huffing and puffing in the 100 degree heat.

Now it was time to head for Valparaiso, where my parents were waiting for me. I had graduated from law school there in May and left my stuff, such as it was, in the apartment I’d been renting. My folks were there to help me gather it all up and transport it to KC, where I was scheduled to begin a clerkship for the Hon. Charles Shangler of the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Part One of the Jefferson City-to-Valparaiso trip was to return to Kansas City, where I’d left said 1980 Olds Omega in a parking lot at Rockhurst College. Rockhurst had hosted the BAR/BRI bar review course, and I’d stayed in a dorm there in June and July, studying intensely.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Missouri Bar Exam, Plus 25

Twenty-five years ago I was in Jefferson City, Mo., taking the Missouri bar exam.

It was one of those times in life of heightened awareness, when one knows one needs to be on what Tiger Woods used to call one’s A Game.

As the results turned out, my game was at that level. At the time, however, everything seemed like a matter of mere survival.

As I posted previously, my second-hand car, a 1980 Olds Omega, barely made it to Jeff City, huffing and puffing in the 100 degree heat.

At my motel, I remember trying to relax a bit in the evenings by watching TV news. For me, the two main stories were the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Antonin Scalia and the status of the World Football League’s antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.

The fact that both of these stories were legal in nature shows, I suppose, how immersed in the law I was in that summer of ’86.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bono's Prayer for Burma

As a preacher’s kid who is married to minister, I’m no stranger to prayer.

In Boise, during my wife’s internship year (1996-97), I was a member of a prayer chain. We called each other when a concern was on someone’s heart — and took it to the Lord in prayer.

A year later, when my own mom was stricken with a life-threatening auto-immune disease, I prayed practically without ceasing for her recovery. And I put the word out for more prayers wherever I could.

To me, the power of prayer is palpable. As C.S. Lewis, as played by Anthony Hopkins, said in the film Shadowlands, even if prayer doesn’t change the immediate outcome, it changes the one who offers the prayer, deepening his or her heart.

When my wife and I attended the U2 360 concert last month at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan, I wasn’t really expecting to pray. Yes, I’d gone to see the film U2 3D, and so had an inkling of how religious, or quasi-religious, a U2 concert can be.

But still, Bono’s passionate prayer for the release of political prisoners in Burma took me by surprise. It was one of the most fervent petitions I’ve ever heard offered, in any circumstances. Though it wasn't overtly offered to the Judeo-Christian God, it was nonetheless a prayer.

It’s true that Jesus said, at one point in the Gospels, that when you pray you should go to your own room and shut the door. Yet I feel sure Jesus would make an exception for this prayer offered by a crowd of 60,000 people in a football stadium on a beautiful summer night.

I will write about Amnesty International's efforts on behalf of Burmese political prisoners in an  upcoming post..

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Absence of Crime Coverage in the Columbia History of the World

The Columbia History of the World was a landmark book. Published by Harper & Row in 1972, the book presents a sweeping survey of notable events from the dawn of time to what it calls "the brooding present."

I was given a copy of the book in 1991 by Don McCloskey, after serving as a teaching assistant in his Western Civilization survey course at the University of Iowa. (Don subsequently became Deirdre and published a book about gender crossing, but that is another story.)

This morning I glanced through the Columbia history, looking to see whether it tackles issues of incarceration and punishment. The answer, interestingly, is no.

In nearly 1200 pages of text, there is virtually no discussion of how societies have dealt with crime. Clearly the contributors (edited by John A. Garraty and Peter Gay) wanted to stay on the high road. And so, in an extensive 63-page index, there are 11 references to the Italian humanist Petrarch, but none for prison, punishment or incarceration.

There is, of course, considerable coverage of slavery. How could there not be, given the importance of the theme of history in world history?

To be sure, you can't take on every topic in a sprawling survey such as this. But still, how could crime and punishment be so overlooked?

Peter Gabriel's Anthem for the Vocational Journey

Peter Gabriel’s  Don’t Give Up, a 1986 duet with Kate Bush, has always inspired me.

In the late 1980s, as I searched for a place to use my law degree after my judicial clerkship ended, I used to listen to the song over and over again.

Somewhere there’s a place that each of us belong. The timetable for finding – or creating – it is unpredictable. But, as the sports slogan goes, you gotta believe you’ll get there.