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Update on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

As one of the two law schools in the US that does not permit the military to interview on campus because they choose to not sign our non-discrimination statement, VLS actively participates in the national lobby movement to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.  Pof. Jackie Gardina sent out the following message to the VLS community:

Hello:  I wanted to give you a report of our trip to DC and our work to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  I also want to extend a thanks to those of you who were able to contribute financially to our efforts – you will be hearing from the students individually but I wanted to recognize you as well.  Many students would simply not be able to make the trip without your help.
I attended the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thurs. 3/18 and heard testimony from General John Sheehan, USMC (Ret.), Former Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, and Former Commander in Chief of US Atlantic Command; Major Mike Almy; and Lt. Jr. Grade Jenny Kopfstein (both discharged under DADT).  As many of you know, Ge. Sheehan managed to create an international incident in his references to the Dutch Army’s inability to protect Serbia.
Fifteen students attended Lobby Day this year, joining about 150 other citizens.  The students were placed in groups with targeted lobbying goals – each group had a Captain, usually a veteran or someone discharged under the law. The groups had appointments with particular offices and in some cases (more hostile offices) were forced to “cold call.”  From all accounts, the students had an invaluable educational experience – both in their training as advocates and also as active participants in our democracy.
One student blogged about her experience and I have cut and pasted her comments below:

Wow, for as stressed as I am, this weekend gave me that glimpse for why I’m putting myself through “The Ordeal” of law school. VLS is one of only two schools that has taken a stand against discrimination in the government’s military practices. I went to to D.C. to lobby for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and met some of the most wonderful people who have been harmed by this law or, like me, just think it’s wrong and un-American (I am affected by DADT, but I have not been discharged from the military or had to live a lie because of it).  These are the people who come to public service lawyers and ask for help because only through the law and the democratic process can their troubles be remedied.

I’ve been calling this past weekend my “Democratic Debut” because I have now become a political activist. My law school lessons have driven a stake into my conscience, and really taught me that being “just a voter” is one thing, but it really isn’t enough when there are senators to be swayed. Not only did I lobby, but I did something that I never do. I wrote a letter about a political topic to a large group of friends and family asking them to call their senators and house representatives. I outlined my views, and included important talking points. I refrain from sending these messages, because I don’t like to get “political” across the board with friends or family. I’m not a confrontational person, though I’m not shy. However, after meeting people who kept thanking me for helping them,  I can’t say that I wasn’t further moved for their plight.  I was very uncomfortable that they were thanking me in the first place though. Seriously, these are war veterans and elite fighter pilots!  One woman was a retired officer who was at the pentagon on 9-11, and she was thanking me for simply lobbying some senators, handing out some information! I must be an activist now, because if law school has taught me anything, it is those who write, who speak, and who teach others about the law that can make a difference. I’m glad I could help, even if just a little.

I’m exhausted. I’m behind in every class. I haven’t started outlining. I haven’t run in a week. Yet, I’m happy for my little part in trying to help the lives of others. Maybe I’m really is turning me into the lawyer I want to be.

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