Former Public Defender Upholds ‘Gideon’s Promise’

Public defenders and the important role they play in our democracy were the subject of a Middle School Zoom assembly on Thursday, March 10. 

Jonathan Rapping, founder and president of the nonprofit organization Gideon’s Promise, spoke to boys about his early days as a public defender in Washington, D.C., and how it’s the job of a public defender to fight for the innocent, but also for those who “may have done something wrong but still need help.” 

Created in 2007, Gideon’s Promise is an organization of public defenders “whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities.”

The group takes its name and inspiration from the landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright, which required U.S. states to provide attorneys to criminal defendants unable to afford their own.

Rapping told the boys one of the main jobs of public defenders is to get close to their clients and learn their stories, so that “everyone can see the whole human being.”

“We can’t do justice if we don’t get proximate,” he said. “Sometimes these are people who made mistakes and maybe did terrible things, but when you get to know them, you see them in a different light.” 

Rapping tied his comments to two books students had recently read: Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. 

He said the books demonstrate the “importance of having a defense, something that every member of a democracy has access to.”

“That’s an office and a part of our democracy that’s overworked,” he said. 

“When I was your age, I read To Kill a Mockingbird. It was a book that set me on the path to becoming a public defender. 

“Thank you for reading these books. Thank you for thinking about these things.”



Brunswick School Greenwich, CT

  • Upper School
    100 Maher Avenue
    Office: 203.625.5856

    Lower School
    1252 King Street
    Office: 203.485.3670
  • Middle School
    1275 King Street
    Office: 203.242.1202

    Pre School
    1252 King Street
    Office: 203.485.3652

Main Phone: 203.625.5800
Business: 203.242.1220 
Alumni: 203.242.1223