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Ronna Schneider

John Kerry '76

What is your favorite BC Law memory of John Kerry?

My favorite BC Law School memories of John Kerry surround my experiences with him as my moot court partner, especially in our winning of the Grimes Competition and the New England Regionals of the National Moot Court Competition, and our trip to New York City for the National finals. The bond created by those competitions evolved into something I treasure much more - a lifetime of friendship.

John Kerry was a fabulous partner with whom to work, as I am sure that many colleagues over the years can attest.  I had never done any significant public speaking before we started working together and John nurtured my nascent oratory skills with encouragement, humor, patience, and enthusiasm. I saw in our experience together so many years ago the same qualities that have made him such an outstanding leader – his intelligence, ability to focus, especially under stress, to analyze with precision, to be decisive, and to persevere.

Perhaps most importantly, in working with John I experienced first hand his ability to inspire. I can appreciate why he must have been a tremendous help to President Obama in preparing him for his Presidential debates. While prepping for a law school moot court competition is certainly not the same as preparing for a Presidential debate, I suspect that the President saw some of the same valuable qualities in John’s preparation and help as did I during our BC days - a demanding tutor who could effectively motivate and inspire you to maximize your talents.

John and I shared more hours than imaginable working together on moot court and even took all the same classes. From the very beginning of first year, we prepared and studied for those classes with our study group of Regina Strazzulla Rockefeller, Jill Landsberg and Mark Berman. While we all seem to have different recollections of how we initially got together, the group, whether by chance, good fortune, or design, worked and we all became and remain wonderful friends.

How would you describe his personality back then--was he outgoing, very involved in the life of the school? More introspective and focused?

John never stopped his involvement in public service and concern for the well-being of others, even during his law school years. While I do not remember the details of all of those activities, I do recall marveling at his dedication, compassion, and ability to successfully maintain what then seemed like two completely different lives.

Could you ever have imagined the John Kerry you knew in law school would become Secretary of State? Were there early signs of his leadership skills that have served him so well during a life in public service?

Law school was by no means the first opportunity for John Kerry to demonstrate his leadership abilities. By the time he entered BC Law, he had served bravely in combat in the Vietnam War, had led a major political movement against that same war upon his return home and his determination of the wrongfulness of the war, and had run for Congress.

I remember recognizing John the moment he walked into our classroom at the beginning of law school. I had watched him with great admiration on TV when he delivered his now famous anti-Vietnam War testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the very Committee which he would chair for many years before he became Secretary of State.

My late father, who got to know my moot court partner not only in law school but in the ensuing years after school as well, was fond of saying even then that he thought John would be President some day.  I am sad that that precise prediction did not come to fruition (and I could not deliver my decisive state of Ohio), but I know that my Dad would have shared the feeling that in these perilous and complicated times, the country – indeed the world - is very lucky that John Kerry is the United States Secretary of State. We need him and I am certain that he will not disappoint us.

Have you kept in touch with John through the years?

Yes.

What is he like as a friend?

He is kind, warm, generous, thoughtful, and fun. He keeps and honors his friendships. He is a great listener and encourages others to challenge his own positions or premises and is able to glean much from hearing the perspectives of others.

His athletic prowess also made him a great tennis partner for my husband, John Schneider.

We have a lot of BC Law graduates in Congress and serving as judges--and as managing partners--across the country. Is there something in the water here? Do you think the law school prepares people for leadership positions in the public and the private sectors?

BC Law does a remarkable job in training future leaders – through the knowledge imparted in the classroom; faculty role models; and the easy accessibility of faculty to students. I think that BC was ahead of its time in encouraging experiential learning. The success that John and I achieved in our moot court experience was made possible by the tremendous support we received from faculty like Peter Donovan and Jim Houghteling, administrators like Paul Kane and Dick Huber, and an incredible cadre of devoted BC alumni like Jack Curtin, who gave of their time and expertise in working with us. As a member of the legal academy myself, I look back at my years at BC Law and the education I received there with appreciation and affection.

--Ronna Greff Schneider
Professor of Law
University of Cincinnati College of Law
http://www.law.uc.edu/faculty-staff/faculty/ronna-greff-schneider

 

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