The Pursuit of Happiness and Elena Kagan
Take It From a Senior
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 17:09
The moment I fell in love with Elena Kagan was during her Supreme Court nomination. She handled a question about her whereabouts on Christmas from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) with poise and a measure of humor, explaining, “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”
On Aug. 5, 2010, after a 63-37 vote in the full Senate, Kagan was confirmed as the 112th associate justice and the fourth female justice. Nearly two years later, I found myself at our local Booeymonger with Marya Pulaski (COL ’13), a dear friend of mine from an Alternative Spring Break trip we had taken to Immokalee, Fla., back in March. As we caught up on each other’s lives, luck would have it that I was looking out the window when the five-foot-three Elena Kagan walked by.
I will preface the following with the fact that I transferred to Georgetown in the fall of 2011. Supreme Court justices — or other important political figures, for that matter — do not to my knowledge normally walk most streets. In the past 12 months at Georgetown, I have heard speeches from many significant — and some not so significant — individuals the likes of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, current Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ann Coulter.
Marya can attest to how shocked I was at that moment. “I think one of the funnier parts about it was that you were so insanely star struck, and I was still just pumped about having seen Heidi Klum in SoHo the other day,” she told me. “You went through different stages: first shock, then elation and then the need to tell everyone about it. Then there was denial and finally just deep gratitude.”
Here I was, a 21-year-old acting like a 13-year-old girl who had just seen a member of One Direction walk by, except she — Kagan — was neither British nor a teenager. I can say, however, that Justice Kagan serves a role shared by only eight other individuals in our entire nation: that of determining the meaning of laws and, most importantly, of the Constitution.
Whatever your opinion on the court’s intended and actual power, Justice Kagan is one of the most powerful women serving in our government today, and she had just walked past the sandwich shop where I was eating.
Not sure if my eyes had deceived me, I ran outside to find that I had indeed spotted her. There she was, flanked by her friend and former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, and an unidentified woman. I snapped a photo to prove it.
Since she was only a few yards away, I could have chased her down. I could have risked being tackled by a Supreme Court police officer and eliminating any opportunity to join the bar. I could have introduced myself and embarrassed myself with my excitement. I could have told her that John Paul Stevens is my favorite justice. I could have told her that I will never forget her Chinese restaurant response to Graham’s question. This was my “Call Me Maybe” moment, and I let it pass me by. That is my biggest regret.
But, as Marya pointed out, stronger than my regret is my deep gratitude. I am grateful for the many things Georgetown has allowed me to do. Among many other factors, had Georgetown not accepted my transfer application and had I not attended that spring break trip with Marya, I probably would never have had an opportunity to publicly tell a story as embarrassing as this one.
With that, I would like to invite Justice Kagan to join me for coffee one of these days. Call me maybe?
Diego Soto is a senior in the College. TAKE IT FROM A SENIOR is a rotating column that appears every other Friday in the guide.