As plans were being made for Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s visit to the law school, third year student Will Sexton (at right) sent me an e-mail expressing his excitement about her visit. He told me about a letter he had written to Justice Ginsburg in the ninth grade as part of an American Government class assignment.
She sent him a personal response, which included the challenge to “think of your children and grandchildren to come, and do your part to make society as you would want it to be for them.”
That experience became a turning point in Will’s life, and today he does have plans to make society better, just like another law student who graduated almost 60 years ago. This is the Florida alumnus Justice Ginsburg came to campus to honor on September 21. She wanted to assist us in paying tribute to Chesterfield Smith (JD 48), one of our most important alumni, one of the legal profession’s greatest leaders, one of the nation’s greatest citizen-lawyers and one of the greatest role models for our students to be found anywhere.
Justice Ginsburg felt strongly about being part of the dedication of the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom. The classroom completes the construction and renovation project we dedicated in ceremonies one year ago. As was the case then, this much-needed facility would not have been possible without the support of those who understand the critical need for private funding. We are most grateful to our friends at Holland & Knight, and all the other donors, who have made it possible for Chesterfield Smith’s legacy to have a permanent home here.
Much more will happen in this room than the education of students in substantive law, which itself is a very important contribution. This is a room where every student will have at least one class. It is the room where trial team competitions, symposia and conferences will be held. In September, the university’s Constitution Day celebration was held here and in October the Florida Supreme Court presided over the Final Four moot court competition.
Students also will get to know Chesterfield Smith through the exhibit that highlights his life’s accomplishments. I have no doubt they will be inspired. Students like Will Sexton — who graduates in December to practice environmental and land use law — will have the opportunity to embrace the professionalism Chesterfield never compromised. They will learn values and skills that will enable them to assume positions of leadership in our communities, state and nation and, as Chesterfield challenges all of us, learn to “do good.”