I recently had the opportunity to speak to some elementary school students about careers in law. I’ve spoken to elementary school students many times before, and did not expect this time to be very different from the others. I couldn’t be more wrong. I was repeatedly reminded how much children are empty vessels waiting to be poured into. I was also reminded that they are like sponges, absorbing the information and experiences around them to which they are most frequently exposed.
When one third grade student looked at me and said, matter-of-factly, “You look like the president.” I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been. Unlike my own life, for hundreds of thousands of elementary school students across the country, the face of the presidency, was a smiling black man in a suit and tie. When a fourth grade student said to me very confidently, “I want to be an immigration lawyer,” I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been. I asked him if he had ever met a lawyer before and he described to me how an immigration lawyer helped his family stay in America. When another group of students said in amazement, “You’re a real lawyer? Like on TV?” I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been. More kids than not have never met “professionals”, other than their teachers, their pediatrician and maybe, police.
We can always count on children to open our eyes and remind us of the realities of the world. And they need to be able to count on us, to be humble enough to listen and teach, from a position of humility and service to the greatest among us.