Brunswick welcomed the Honorable Jed Rakoff to the Upper School for a lecture and Q & A session rooted in the concept of intellectual courage on Thursday, October 4.
Richard Breeden, a Brunswick parent and former Chairman of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, introduced Rakoff to the gathering of students and faculty — as Breeden and his family work to bring to Brunswick distinguished guests with unique insight and perspective into the School’s ideals of Courage, Honor, and Truth.
Rakoff has served as a federal district judge for the Southern District of New York since 1996, after being nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1995 on the recommendation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He has also been an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School for more than three decades.
Rakoff focused his remarks on three individuals who acted with consistent courage and stood up for what they believed in throughout their lives: Senator John McCain, whose story of heroism as a prisoner of war in Vietnam is well documented; Alice Paul, a leader in the women’s suffrage movement; and the lesser known Richard Reeves, a federal judge from Montgomery, Ala., who authored many crucial decisions to make school integration a reality in the deep south during the 1950s.
Even though John McCain, Alice Paul, and Richard Reeves were different in many ways, Rakoff said, the courage they showed came down to two things: Thinking for themselves, and acting on their beliefs even in the face of danger.
“This doesn’t mean you can ignore the views of others,” Rakoff said. “You cannot be confident you have it right until you have fairly considered opposing points of view.
“But once you have arrived at a firm conviction of what is right and just in a given situation, you must be courageous enough to stick with it in the face of ridicule, threats, bullying, or worse.”
To conclude, Rakoff cited Brunswick’s motto of Courage, Honor, Truth.
“All of these are hugely important, but perhaps the most difficult to achieve is courage,” he said.
“And yet, looking at you today, I’m optimistic that as you face the challenges that life will inevitably present to you, you will face them with courage — and thereby feel the immense internal satisfaction that acting only with courage can bring.”