It is a new year.
I have a new job, again.
Makes six in seven.
I can hear my father’s voice asking me when I am going to “be still.”
T.R. Williams, U.W. 2013, graduated from Vassar College and worked in New York City’s educational nonprofit arena before becoming the deputy outreach director in the Office of Governor Tony Evers, Madison. She considers advocacy an art form that allows one to bridge the gap between current and aspired reality.
My father was born in 1960 in Lambert, Quitman County, Miss. On my father’s birth certificate, his race is listed as “colored.” Based on my father’s birth year, he is considered to be part of the “baby boomers” generation. Baby boomers were the largest generational group in U.S. history (until the millennial generation slightly surpassed them).
Baby boomers are considered to be an economically influential generation. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected President. The cost of a gallon of gas was $0.25 and the average monthly rent was $98. The Civil Rights Act of 1960 was signed into law, and the U.S. Supreme Court decided Boynton v. Virginia. In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that racial segregation in public transportation was unconstitutional because it violated the Interstate Commerce Act. The petitioner in this case, Bruce Boynton, was a Black American law student who was arrested for trying to order at a “whites only” restaurant in a bus terminal. Boynton’s case was argued by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
I was born in Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wis., in 1985. My birth certificate does not indicate my race. I am a millennial. Regardless of what your Facebook timeline looks like, you have one because of a millennial. Depending on the algorithms created from your internet searches, you have most likely read about varying “characteristics” of millennials. My father’s comment about “being still” was born of an attitude common to his generation regarding millennials’ loyalty, ability to focus, and entitlement.
The baby boomer versus millennial dichotomy and the closely related millennial versus everybody dichotomy are false narratives. The two generations do not exist in opposition to one another.
When my father asks me when am I going to “be still,” I know that what he is asking is how will I find stability. How will I plan for the future without some constant to help with predictability? It is not that I don’t value the answers to these questions. The world I was born into in 1985 and the world that raised me through the 1990s and 2000s showed me the risks and rewards of internet companies. It showed me the power and possibility of technology and digital advocacy. It showed me the unpredictability of the economy as I graduated from college and law school during and immediately after the “Great Recession.” It showed me a completely different way to board an airplane after Sept. 11, 2001.
I was born and grew up in a different world than my father and it shows, including in how I navigate my career.
I was born and grew up in a different world than my father and it shows, including in how I navigate my career. My job changes since graduating from law school are not centered on something going wrong as much as my desire, my drive, and my pursuit of knowledge, challenge, and experience. I envision achieving my goals through a collection of experiences that build me professionally and personally. Having different employment experiences, connected by mission alignment, has allowed me to compete professionally and advance in my career.
My newest position does have a built-in expiration date, although I am hoping for an extended term.
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What was your funniest experience in the legal world?
Easily, hands down, my very first sentencing argument when I was an assistant state public defender in the Milwaukee County Trial Office. I had spoken with the assistant district attorney, advocating on my client’s behalf. I confirmed my client’s decision and the consequences to this decision and completed all the necessary plea forms. I had spoken to my client about what I would want to say at the sentencing hearing and why, and what I thought the possible outcomes could be. I asked my client which things they would want to share with the judge as well. I checked all the boxes my training and mentorship had prepared me for.
Then came sentencing-hearing day – my first one ever. The assistant district attorney went through the crime charged and the plea agreement and said “with the defense free to argue.” All I heard was “free to argue.” So when the judge asked: “is that correct, counsel?” I said yes and then immediately launched into a solid 20-minute sentencing argument.
The extremely patient judge let me finish, smiling a bit through my argument. (I naturally assumed this smile was because my oratory and persuasion skills are just that good.) At the end of my “piece de resistance,” the judge thanked me for my argument and then reminded me that my client first needed to enter a plea to the crime as charged. Yes, that happened. When it was finally time for sentencing, I just asked the court to take into account my previous statements and then let my client speak.
I will never forget that moment, not only because it was funny, but because I was extended a lot of grace by the judge and the court – including the assistant district attorney.
T.R. Williams, Office of Governor Tony Evers, Madison.
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