|MICHAEL A. FITTS|
Dean and Bernard G. Segal
Professor of Law
We all have experiences that help chart our professional lives. For me, one critical period was my service in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel in the 1980's, when the role of government was being defined and the limits of legal doctrine being tested. Those four years provided me with a political education that I found life-defining. It deepened my interests in presidential power, separation of powers and administration, all of which have borne fruit later in my own teaching and scholarship — and, ultimately, in my interest in serving as Dean of this great Law School.
We are perhaps reliving a similar moment in American history, which is formative for the whole country as well as in the careers of many young Penn students and alumni. One Penn Law student who worked this year in our wonderful Legislative Clinic, for example, vetted Supreme Court nominees through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Another student was assigned the health care reconciliation bill as an intern with the Senate Finance Committee. In the latter case, the student scrubbed the legislation and flagged the areas with budget implications — all before participating in an exclusive meeting with the Senate parliamentarian. These are encounters they will never forget.
Many of our alumni are having similar experiences in the young Obama administration. They are the subject of the current issue, which focuses on four young alumni who have heeded the call to service: Olivier Kamanda L'09, Kirsten White L'07, Nicole Isaac L'04, and Dan Restrepo L'99. They have been joined in the administration by professor Bill Burke-White, who is on leave from the faculty.
All of them pulse with the same excitement and sense of purpose I felt, as they conduct the nation's business and help make tomorrow's headlines. For them, I am sure it is hard to believe how close they are to the center of gravity. Every time they walk into the White House, the Situation Room, the Capitol or the State Department, or step up to the Press Room podium, as one of the featured alumni did, the enormity of their jobs hits home.
They are part of history — their baptism by fire will have an enormous impact on their lives. Such opportunities do not come along very often.
But when they do, it is wise to seize them. Already, one of the students in the clinic is plotting a potential path to the White House. She's going to work for a prominent D.C. firm after graduation. Her goal is to parlay that work into a job in a future presidential administration. If so, we'll feature her in the Penn Law Journal.