Ray: For many college graduates, the idea of continuing to graduate school and getting an advanced degree is a tough prospect to mull over. Some go on to post-graduate studies for matters of personal achievement while others go for a chance to increase their pay scale. There are a multitude of reasons why people go to grad school which do not necessarily apply to me. So at this time when I am considering rather or not I should enroll in a post-graduate program, I think its best that we account for the reasons why we all should or should not enroll.
The thought of me going to graduate school actually began during my junior year at Temple University. Pennsylvania Representative Chakah Fattah was holding his annual Conference on Higher Education in Philadelphia and had invited dozens of students from Temple to attend. Although I was not one of those students invited to attend, I was able to attend the conference thanks to my decision to show up uninvited.
The conference was amazing. There were college students from all over Pennsylvania who were there to learn about post-graduate studies. I must say that I was also surprised to see that many of them were minorities. The conference was held in a very nice Philadelphia hotel located just outside the downtown area. Attending the conference were local politicians, businessmen, and University representatives from a number of different colleges offering post-graduate degrees.
The Fattah Conference on Higher Education gave me the opportunity to ask University representatives and graduate students as many questions as I could think of about graduate school. To top it all off, the keynote speaker of the Conference that year was Constance Rice, who is the cousin of United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Constance Rice is a powerful civil rights activist and attorney. She is also the founder of the Advancement Project in my native area of Los Angeles, California.
After Ms. Rice gave a tremendous speech encouraging (more like demanding) every student in attendance to attend a graduate school, those of us who were brave enough to approach her were given the chance to speak to her face to face. So of course, Seth and I seized the opportunity to meet her although we had no clue what to say to her. Fortunately for us, we didn’t really get a chance to say much of anything.
Although I don’t remember the exact words she used to do it, she made us both promise her that we would go to law school before she sent us away with a hug and kiss on the cheek. It was as if I had been scolded by an aunt about wasting all the opportunities that were given to me because of the sacrifices of the generations of family that came before me. Constance Rice spoke to me with so much passion and sincerity that I felt as though I would be squandering my entire heritage if I chose not to go to law school.
Before I continue on, I need to emphasize how extremely grateful I am to Congressman Fattah for founding the Conference On Higher Education which has undoubtedly changed thousands of lives for the good of the world. I must also say that I never expected to meet a woman like Constance Rice who seems to have a far greater understanding of the laws of the Universe than I was able to recognize at that time. She is the embodiment of power, wisdom, elegance, and beauty and I am forever in debt to her for lighting a fire in me that seeks to shine bright in recognition of those who came and struggled before me.
With that said, I went on to finish my undergraduate studies at Temple University. I am now working at a Fortune 100 company and have begun my career as young business professional. Most people would be perfectly content with being in my position, including myself. But the greater part of me isn’t satisfied. The greater part of me knows that I haven’t found my calling yet and that I MUST continue searching for it. But I had no clue what it was that I was searching for.
I knew that I loved business and figuring out ways to make money. Naturally, I thought that getting an MBA was probably the next logical step for me. But as I continued searching for knowledge, it became obvious to me that I could achieve all of my business objectives without getting an MBA. Being a great businessman requires ideas, creativity, and hustle; something that no MBA program can install in its students. I also figured out that my goal in life wasn’t to keep getting better jobs, but to create the companies that would create jobs while providing me with enough wealth to focus on other endeavors.
I was ok with that logic and decided that getting an MBA is great for most people, but that it wasn’t going to get me where I felt that I needed to go. Next, I considered law school because I knew that I wanted to a chance to serve in a public office and thought that perhaps law school was the best way to get there. Once again, research proved to me that politicians are not made by their law school, but by their problem solving abilities, exceptional communication skills, and ability to lead with integrity. Thus, I decided that I didn’t need to go to law school to achieve that objective as well.
So for a year or so, I had it figured out that I could do everything I wanted to do without having a graduate degree. In fact, I even assumed that enrolling in a graduate program would only slow my progress towards achieving my goals. Even now, I am convinced that anyone living in America can become a business mogul or a political champion for the people without any formal education at all. All it takes is a strong desire to do so and the work ethic to develop the necessary qualities to become a leader in one’s perspective field.
However, living in Southern California has provided fuel for the fire that was once ignited by Constance Rice. I saw the fuel all around the streets of Philadelphia, but I didn’t understand it for what it was. I saw it in every depressed neighborhood, in every crime report, in every illiterate child, in every teen pregnancy, and in every prison cell. I saw it unemployment lines, homeless shelters, center-city sidewalks, and subway benches. It was in the air we breath, the water we drink, and the food we eat. I even saw it in corrupt politicians, neglectful policy makers, and single-minded lobbyists.
The fuel was all around me, but my conditioning had been to treat it as waste. I was taught that one man can’t change all the problems in the world. I was taught that there would always be problems and politicians will always be corrupt. I was made to believe that we can’t do better simply because we can’t. I was taught to do well in school in order to make it out of the waste. I was told that I should make donations when I can, but getting a good job is the best way I can help change the world. I was told that my opportunity to go to college and get a good job is what the elder generations fought and struggled for. I now believe that I was unspitefully deceived.
I didn’t realize it then, but the fuel in North Philadelphia gave me the energy to launch a voter registration campaign in the neighborhoods surrounding Temple University. I didn’t realize it then, but the fuel gave me the energy to work with my team on the student government to enact two of the largest community service efforts by Temple students ever. The fuel encouraged me to host a series of discussions with candidates running for mayor of Philadelphia in 2007. The fuel had my fire burning, but maybe I didn’t recognize it amidst the tough course load and schedule that came with being a full-time college undergrad.
But what I didn’t recognize then, I fully understand now. My decision to apply for enrollment into law school is a direct result of the fire that burns inside of me to be a problem solver. My belief now is that obtaining a degree in law will increase my flame from that which is caused by a lighter, to that which exudes from a blow torch. In other words, having a specialized knowledge in law would allow me to increase the potency of my efforts to create positive change.
In order to change the environment in which gang-members are allowed to terrorize low income communities, you need to change the law. In order to ensure that people can continue to afford the cost of living in a nation where the divide between the middle and lower class is steadily increasing, you need be able to impact the law. In order to help ensure that children all over the nation have the same access and opportunities to a quality education, you need to have an affect on the law. In order to ensure victory for those who boldly fight on the front lines in the war against crime, poverty, and corruption, the law must be influenced so that their efforts are not in vain.
Personally, I can admit that graduating from college allowed me to be exempt from serving on the front lines or being a victim to some of the perils that come with less income or employment potential. But by obtaining a degree in law, I hope to provide the high level support that is necessary in order to make the law reflect the will of those fighting for justice in our nation. The problems that we face can’t be solved by a group of community organizers alone, or by the will of one justice seeking lawyer. Instead, they will require a potent concerted effort of legal know-how and community organizing to make a meaningful and long standing change in society.
For these reasons, I have come to the conclusion that going to law school is a small requirement for the major contributions I hope to make in this country through out my life. My reason for wanting to go to graduate school doesn’t have to be your reason. But the decision to go becomes a lot easier when you know exactly why you MUST go.
Everything Ray said, I agree with fully. It should be noted that I was the reason he attended that conference. Ms. Rice was every bit as phenomenal as Ray says she was. It was certainly then, at that moment, that my fire was lit as well.
I advocate for graduate school education for two reasons. However, I do have to acknowledge it isn’t for everyone. Not everyone is suited to higher education, even college. Formal education is not a requisite for success. But my first reason pertains to that which it is required for. To make the most significant impact in many fields, advanced knowledge is needed. I feel for what I want to achieve my B.A. is worthless, it only allows provides me basic knowledge and access to higher education. Second, because it is what those who fought for my access to an undergraduate education expect of me.
To settle for less that what is possible is lazy and unacceptable. As a fundamental purpose of mine is achievement, I must strive for more, for better. I agree with Ray’s comments regarding the larger impact we can make with more training. This is why I’ve decided to apply to Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice. I know that solutions for our community’s problems (poverty, violence, education) need innovative solutions and I am confident that I will be better equipped to create and implement them with this education. My goal remains law school, and the combination of the two courses of study should be very beneficial for me.
The next revolution won’t be won with the bruises and blood of its soldiers. Rather we must bear nooses of knowledge and shackles of dedication and purpose. I feel that advanced education will prepare me for this battle. My time as a community organizer showed me the steep uphill battle that we face, and to win we must have the proper artillery.
“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” -Malcolm X
Feel free to comment with your own reasons of why you chose to go the graduate school or why you’re considering graduate school. Or, you can always say whatever you feel and we’ll post that too. Thanks!