Mission 100 Days: Dumb Lucky
By Patrick Healy, Managing Editor
Of the words used to describe me — tall, tryhard, and turgid, for a representative sample — I think the weirdest one is chutzpah. I never envisioned myself as a chutzpah-haver.
A year ago, I was interviewing for a scholarship, and an interviewer, in analyzing my writing, declared I had just that: defined as “audacity, for good or bad.” Before I was described with that unexpected adjective, I had been aiming to just get into law school with a decent scholarship. Afterwards, I was inspired to be more ambitious.
I set my sights high, Freud’s reality principle of avoiding disappointment be damned. And it worked. But I don’t think it would have happened without going to Canisius. As much as it instilled magis or cura personalis, Canisius cultivated chutzpah. That’s the only thing that could explain the following changes:
I graduated high school wanting to be a statistician, and four years later, I’m going to a top law school. I came into Canisius as an introvert but will graduate as an extrovert. My weakest link as a freshman was public speaking, and now I find myself wishing I could speak my thoughts aloud rather than pen this piece.
As someone who was once in a similar career position told me, succeeding requires two things: being smart and being dumb lucky. I’m not sure I fulfill the first requirement, but I know I have the second in spades. Most people also work hard, but they receive little recognition. I’ve been lucky that my hard work is in areas I enjoy and that I’ve stumbled into achievements.
And I’ve been given so much. Just as it takes a lot to produce a paper, it takes a lot to produce a person. With that in mind, I’ve sorted those who have shaped me like The Griffin’s staff. The editors-in-chief of my life are my grandparents, the managing editors are my parents, and the layout director is my sister, and they know how much I love them. They got me to Canisius and continue to support me so that the following people could also have a big impact on my life.
“News Editor”: Mr. Robert Klump. While I’m the one who chooses my path, Professor Klump gave me all the information I needed to make an informed decision. In the summer of 2020, we called about my potential interest in the law, and he advised that I should get an internship, take his classes and read Scott Turow’s “1L” book to see if I might like the law. After I did those without being scared away, he gave me the opportunity to serve as Dr. Bruce Dierenfield’s research assistant, provided an interview with the constitutional scholar Randy Barnett and encouraged me to apply to top law schools. I’d probably be a sorry statistician, or a bored bureaucrat, without Professor Klump.
“Features Editor”: Dr. Bruce Dierenfield. It is the privilege of my academic life that Dr. Dierenfield is my mentor. Through my research for his book, he crafted my eagerness and adolescent aptitude into something approximating professional competence. He highlights my best attributes, introducing me to accomplished attorneys, writing a letter of recommendation for law school and speaking highly of me to people he knows — and, as he is one of the most respected people at Canisius, that’s quite a few. I am flummoxed by the faith he has in me, but I nevertheless work every day to justify it.
“Opinion Editor”: Dr. Kevin Hardwick. On Sept. 2, 2020, after my first class with him, I sent a 593-word email to Dr. Hardwick disputing his in-class claim that America is in a “cold civil war,” which I said was “fascinating” but “misleading at best.” I’m proud to say my pretentious demeanor nor my unpopular position on civility in our country have not changed one bit. I’m sorry to leave my sparring partner, but I hope I find a foil — and friend — like Dr. Hardwick at law school.
“Sports Editor”: Dr. Nancy Wallace. Like all analogies, this one isn’t perfect, but I’m trying to point to how Dr. Wallace, like a sports coach, pushed me in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. She encouraged me to take the lead in the First Year Experience course we led together last semester. Planning for those classes forced me to articulate the lessons I had learned at Canisius in order to share them with first year students. Just as valuable and interesting was chatting with Dr. Wallace before and after the class about life, college, and careers.
“Multimedia Director”: Julia Barth. Two years ago, Julia interned with me at the Erie County Democratic Committee and, beginning last summer, after we were appointed to lead The Griffin, we have communicated nearly every day. But it wasn’t the Democrats or The Griffin that made us so close. Julia encouraged me to step out of my shell socially, which changed my life and made me so much happier. I couldn’t be more honored to have led the paper together with her, but I was even happier to spend my senior year alongside her. Julia, I know, will be a forever friend.
“Photo Directors”: As a photo can provide a different perspective on an article, clubs allowed me to access different angles of myself. I grew up reading The Buffalo News (which I credit for my success on standardized tests) and so writing for my college newspaper was a thrill. Writing for this rag obviously prepared me for a career in the law, and if someone wanted to follow in my footsteps, I’d tell them to write for their college newspaper — and to participate in their college’s Model United Nations Club.
In a law school interview, the interviewer asked why I thought I was ready to keep pace with older students who have completed doctoral degrees, Fulbrights and the like. I told them I already did. Model UN gave me the chance to, during COVID, compete in simulations of the European Union with European law students. They voted me best delegate, not because I had superior knowledge of the supranational institution, but because I became the best at finding the people who did.
Finally, the Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) pre-law fraternity cemented my interest in the legal profession. Through it, I met members of Canisius’s Desmond Law Society, older pre-law students who are now in law school and other pre-law students of my year. That I enjoyed being part of this pre-law fraternity suggested to me that I would enjoy being part of the larger fraternity of the legal profession.
When this edition is published on Friday, I’ll be on a plane to Washington, D.C. with 21 PAD members. Over the past few months, I’ve also led nine Griffin staffers to San Francisco and 17 Model UN members to New York City. That’s responsibility for nearly 50 people and tens of thousands of dollars in three unknown cities in a span of 40 days. Lawyers are responsible for their clients’ lives and/or resources and must navigate situations they weren’t directly trained for. These trips weren’t the difference between freedom and jail time, or over massive sums of money, but they validated my peers’ and my school’s faith in me — the start of a hopefully good track record of trustworthiness as an attorney.
“Copy Editors": My friends. Like a good copy editor treats every article the same regardless of who wrote it, my friends don’t treat me any differently based on my successes and failures. It’s cheesy to say I couldn’t have made it without them, but in part because I’m cheesy and my friends accept that part of me, that’s exactly what I’ll say. I wouldn’t trade my game-night group for Georgetown, wouldn’t trade friends made through clubs for Cornell, political science and philosophy pals for Penn, hilarious history major nonsense for Notre Dame, or the Hughes crew for Harvard.
All the other friends I see in class, the library and at club events — no amount of prestige could compensate for the joy they bring to my life. At Canisius, more than a career, or even chutzpah, I’ve gained companionship. If I ever need to see a friendly face, I’ll read this paper, or call on one of the many friends for whom Canisius is our original bond, or I’ll just wait for someone to do something great — they were probably a Canisius classmate.