Famed Local Author Speaks with Central Ohio Students at Supreme Court
A courtroom full of central Ohio high school students met with Columbus native Wil Haygood, whose Washington Post article served as the basis for the 2013 award winning movie The Butler.
The discussion was part of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Forum on the Law Lecture Series held on Oct. 20 at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center. This year high school students got to hear about an important subject.
“Race relations is an issue that’s really close to my heart,” Pamela Bertschi said.
Bertschi, a Westland High School junior, grew up listening to racist comments.
“My grandpa grew up in Akron - and racial tensions were really high when he grew up, and he has a really different opinion than I do in race relations,” Bertschi said.
That’s why Bertschi liked hearing author Haygood talk about racial equality. Haygood discussed his new book “Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America,” and the students heard about how a group of Southern senators tried to block the first African-American justice from taking a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Marshall fell in love with the Constitution, fell in love fighting in the court system. He loves students, books, and he loved brave people who were just brave for a righteous cause,” Haygood said.
Haygood also talked about second chances. For him it was telling his basketball coach – after he was cut from the team - that he deserved a second chance. Haygood ended up making the team.
“I was proud to have asked for a second chance. Life is about second chances, but only if you ask for it. So if you get a bad grade on a test, ask your teacher if you can make it up,” Haygood said.
Marshall’s second chance, Haygood said, was graduating at the top of his class at Howard University School of Law after initially being rejected from Maryland University because of his race. He found his calling shortly after by helping those who needed a voice find justice.
“In Marshall’s mind, the truth needs no defense. Equality is important. Opportunity is important and so Thurgood Marshall went to work for the NAACP,” Haygood said.
That resonated with Bertschi, who said she feels like kids her age are making a shift toward racial impartiality.
“I don’t understand why a white person is any different than a black person and just growing up it’s just very hard for me to understand why there’s such a barrier. And I think that what I really like about my generation is that I can feel the barrier kind of like - it’s like blurring out,” Bertschi said.
When Bertschi goes back to school, she’ll let her classmates know what Haygood said about equality and justice for all.
“He mentioned a lot about how it doesn’t matter what color of skin you are, it’s what you do with it, and I think that would bring back good character is what makes a good person and not the color of their skin. And I would just bring back, treat everyone equally because that we’re humans, we deserve to be, to all be treated equally,” Bertschi said.
The Forum on the Law was established in 2009 by the late Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer as an ongoing lecture series. Events feature regional or national speakers who address contemporary or historic legal topics.