By Geoff Golda, 3L
This morning for me began like any other Thursday morning. Because I don’t have class on Thursdays, I allow myself to get up a little later than usual. I putz around the apartment for a while, turn on the kettle and grind some coffee for the French press. I have a number of readings to catch up on today, but they can wait until after my morning coffee and cigarette. Indeed, they can wait until after I play a few songs on the guitar. Maybe I’ll get breakfast before delving into them. Or read some of my novel.
In truth, I’m no stranger to procrastination. That jolt of motivation in the eleventh hour has been the backbone of a good many of my scholarly achievements. This semester has been generally different thus far, though. This semester I’ve been doing my readings before classes. This semester I’ve been attending my classes. This semester is my last, and out of some sense of needing to prove something to myself or just wanting to be the best me I can be while still officially connected to Allard Hall, I’ve been doing things right for a change. No, please reserve your accolades. I really haven’t done anything yet.
For whatever reason, I’m putting as many things between myself and getting onto my readings as possible this morning. I’m procrastinating in a way which is not unfamiliar, but which is uncharacteristic of my year thus far. New Years resolutions have a way of fading as January wears on, but in fact I’d never resolved to be a better student this semester. I just started doing it. As I look out onto the wet streets and bobbing umbrellas below, I realize that there is something else which has caused me to hesitate with respect to my routine. There is somewhere else that I should be.
Yesterday, our noble LSS President Andrea Fraser alerted me to the fact that she would be giving a speech at the surprise announcement in the Franklin Lew forum today. She wouldn’t tell me what the announcement was. This frustrated me. A law school is no place for surprise announcements. We require notice, so that we can adequately respond. Notice of “a surprise” in my eyes is akin to no notice at all. I realize after placing my guitar down this morning that I’m unreasonably irked by the whole thing. Not only that, but I’m irked by the fact that others don’t seem to be similarly irked. “Free lunch,” they assure me, dismissive of my indignance. As if the virtue of a free lunch could overwhelm the most egregious injustices.
No. Today I will not sit idly by in my apartment catching up with readings while whatever surprise announcement is made. Today I will be heard. Justice be done, though free lunch be served. I dress myself, step out into the rain, board the 44, plug in my headphones, and turn on some meditative sounds so I can calmly measure my approach.
I walk into Allard Hall on a mission. It’s 11:25. That gives me 35 minutes to determine what on earth is going on here before the official announcement ceremony begins. I begin by asking a few students, none of whom seem to know for sure what is going on. There is a rumour going around that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin might be giving a speech – a most unlikely occurrence given that the Supreme Court is in session and moreover because there would be a number of people, including myself, who would have been exceptionally angry to have missed out on such an event. The more likely candidate regards a certain $30 million endowment to the law school by Peter A. Allard, and news that the law school would be renamed “Peter A. Allard School of Law”.
The gall! A surprise announcement that this man is able to throw incredible sums of money around and stick his name on whatever he likes? And we’re supposed to celebrate and be happy about this somehow? How perverse! Satisfied that this is indeed what is going on, I set about talking with students about what is about to take place. I throw a lot of choice words around, narcissist among them. One can’t just go throwing money about and expect the world to love him for it. Indeed, I will be taking my free lunch (I can’t speak to the chilli, but the pulled pork sandwiches were fantastic) and listening to what is to be said, but no, I’m not buying any of this, and no, I’m not happy about it.
Shortly before the actual speech portion of the announcement was underway, I got a moment to speak with Andrea Fraser about the whole thing. I made a number of the same comments that I had made to others that morning and managed to get in a little dig about how she, the strong minded and sceptical force of nature that she is, still somehow managed to be sucked into the whole thing. I wasn’t speaking as such in order to offend her, so much as to convey the general sense of losing faith in humanity that was welling up in my gut. If even the best of us are happy to live on our knees, well…
In any event, Ms. Fraser set to setting me straight. She told me that I had it wrong, that I shouldn’t be running my mouth as I had been, and that she’d hoped I hadn’t been spewing such non-sense around to others. I suggested she not be so hard on me, that indeed there were few among us willing to resist such gratuitous displays of extravagance, and that she might do well to take a page out of my book. That said, I agreed to hold my tongue until I heard what the Dean, herself, and Mr. Allard had to say.
Dean Mary Anne Bobinski stepped up to the lectern and encouraged the students, faculty, alumni, and others in attendance to begin filling the forum. Still skeptical, and eager to hear was was going to be said, I took a position in the front row near the center of the room. After a brief recap of the law school’s history and a warm introduction, with many a pause for applause, Peter Allard was given the floor.
To my surprise (!) and shame, the man humbly delivered a 12 page speech with hardly a word about himself or his achievements. Peter spoke about some of his inspirations, in particular U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Harry S. Truman, who he described as people who strove for causes which were beyond themselves as mere mortals. He talked about our mortality. He talked about some of the good things that had come out of our law school. He spoke of a hope for the future, of the courage that would be required of each of us to move this world on toward better things – in spite of the corruption and growing disenfranchised, which he also spoke of. He expressed lament over the sense of powerlessness that seems to have taken hold in the youth of today, but, with humility, he reiterated his sentiments about the power and the spirit in each of us to motivate change. To take care of each other. To live by the golden rule.
Andrea Fraser got up after him and, without having much advance notice of what would be taking place that day, was able to express from a students point of view what Peter A. Allard meant to us, and what the endowment would mean going forward. When she finished speaking, the forum was opened up, and guests were invited to champagne and sparkling water to celebrate the event. I stood in place dumbfounded for a moment, piecing back together the fragments of this unexpected day.
I decided, not being able to find each and every person I’d ranted to before the announcement in the ensuing chaos, that the best I might be able to do would be to apologize to Mr. Allard in person. I shook his hand, and he introduced himself (“Peter”) before I had a chance to do the same. I explained to him what I had done before the announcement, about the disparaging comments that I’d canvased the student body with. I told him that I now felt quite bad about the whole thing, and that I’d wished I’d heard him out before casting judgement on his actions. His response was as humbling as the speech he’d given before – he laughed, and told me that someone was bound to take such a shot at him. His magnanimity left me, as Andrea Fraser had described the effect of his gift in her speech moments before, breathless. He told me I wasn’t the only one to have had the thoughts that I did, and we started into another conversation, before we were all too quickly cut off by another group of students eager to make his acquaintance. I shook his hand once more, told him I was glad to have met him, and walked away with no more animus toward him or the school than that a detached autumn leaf might have for the tree that once bore it.