It was right for me to go to Berkeley in 1970. It was the center of political debate and activism for my generation. My father was a labor union official, and politics was already a central part of my life. But, nevertheless, I was anxious since I'd come to Berkeley from a rural high school, few graduates of which went to a major university.
I sampled widely from the course catalog. I took rhetoric, history, the physics of music. I had a double major in Political Science and Communication and Public Policy, and both were important to me.
In a place as large and frenetic as Berkeley, it's necessary to find a center, a home, and for me that was the Political Science Department. So many there were so good to me: Tom Blaisdell, Eugene Lee, Nelson Polsby, Sandy Muir, Ray Wolfinger, to name but a few. These men (and there were almost no women professors in the department) had national reputations as both scholars and political commentators. I never seriously considered becoming a professor, but they made me feel there were other ways I could combine a deep interest in ideas with a desire to better people's lives through government institutions. The ideal and the real.
Which brings me back to Professor Tom Blaisdell, my guide, my adviser, my dear friend. I still miss him terribly and have needed him often. Tom and I began having weekly lunches my sophomore year and they lasted right through my years at Berkeley's law school. Tom and his wife Catherine took me into their lives and told me of their early days in China, of working for Roosevelt, of Tom's administering the Marshall Plan in London, and serving as Assistant Secretary of Commerce under his good friend Averill Harriman.
Tom and I had long discussions about what was going right or wrong in Washington and who was to credit or blame. I pursued my commitment to citizen participation in government and he taught me of its limits and the need for leadership in those moments. I learned of his defense of a friend in the State Department against McCarthy and of the genius behind the social security system and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The centerpiece of a great education is often a single figure who becomes a mentor. Tom Blaisdell was that for me, and I will always be grateful to Berkeley for bringing us together.
I had the good fortune of just moving up the hill to Boalt Hall for law school. Boalt's student body was richly diverse in background, race and ethnicity, income level and age. I particularly was fortunate to be there when many extremely talented women who had not considered the law an option had returned to school after staying at home or working in other fields.
We were optimistic then about how quickly opportunities would open up for women. I don't know how it would have affected the spirit of the women of my graduating class of 1977 if we'd known that almost 20 years later women would represent only 18 percent of partners in law firms, 3 percent to 5 percent of all senior executives, and 6.2 percent of directors of Fortune 1,000 companies.
As graduation neared, I was asked by the class leadership to invite Garry Trudeau to be our speaker. In his popular cartoon strip, Doonesbury, he had enrolled Joanie Caucus in our law school class and she had periodically surfaced struggling through with us. The problem was that Trudeau was thought to be an intensely private person who made no public appearances. Why they asked me, I don't know, but I gave it a try. I wrote a wild letter to Trudeau about his need to complete something he'd started, and to my surprise my phone rang one night with him calling to accept. He turned out to be an engaging, brilliant, serious person and a great graduation speaker. Then, in 1992, in what felt like private letters to me in return, Trudeau's strip had Joanie go to work with her old law school classmate who had been nominated to be Attorney General of the United States. Then, as now, I felt all the Berkeley memories, large and small, flooding back. It's a great and unique place.
[Table of Contents] [Berkeley Magazine Home] [UC Berkeley Home]
Please e-mail your comments to email@example.com