Below is a draft of my personal statement for the upcoming application cycle. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions below. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you very much in advance.
Part of my political efficacy was taken from me at a young age. While my classmates were told they could be the president of the United States, I had no choice but to aspire to other dreams. Before society tried to tell me that I, a multiethnic, queer female, could not seize executive power, my teachers and textbooks presumed me ineligible. They made it clear: what stood between me and the Oval Office was my Canadian birth certificate.
Believing the rhetoric disenfranchising me of my right to office, I memorized the presidential prerequisites and regurgitated them back to my teachers on command. History and government were taught to me factually, impersonally, and superficially. Excelling required a short-term memory and placed little emphasis on factual analysis. I would cram historical timelines into my brain, ace exams, and forget the information two weeks later. Until I read James W. Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.
Loewen argues that educators “seem not to have thought deeply about just what in our past might be worthy of [...] serious contemplation,” because they extol history as a set of distorted facts rather than tell stories of our imperfect American journey. When I read Lies I realized it had never occured to me to question the validity of what I had been taught in class; the curriculum was presented as fact so I consumed it as such. Loewen encouraged me to reject how history is taught at face-value and educated me in critical analysis, which no academic authority had ever done.
And so I approached relearning Article II of the Constitution with a heightened sense of acuity. A phrase in Section I stood out to me in a new way: what did “natural-born” really mean? My AP Government teacher repeated my elementary teachers’ claim that “natural-born” means to have been born in the United States. I was determined to find a more comprehensive answer to my simple question.
I found part of my answer through introspection. I asked myself how it is that I am an American citizen. My father was born in New York and according to the Council on Foreign Relations, he conferred honorary citizenship unto me, making me a U.S. citizen at birth. However, it was still unclear whether the presidency required me to be born on U.S. soil regardless of citizenship at birth. My most resourceful educator, Google, found that previous presidential candidates, like Senator John McCain, were born abroad. Furthermore, the consensus in the legal community was that I, having met the requirements for citizenship at the time of birth despite being born in Canada, am in fact eligible for the United States presidency. In this moment of realization, the fraction of my political efficacy that had been stripped from me at a young age was restored.
Forfeiting my political aspirations exemplifies the way in which students nationwide are stunted. They are not encouraged to think critically which results in blind trust in words on a page. This faulty foundation serves as a catalyst, propelling individuals into a cycle of learned helplessness. Early conditioning to abide by the rigidity of academia misconstrues the flexibility of the law. Legal statutes provoke inquiry, analysis, perspective, and debate, but not without considerable nuance. Having seen how society can perpetuate this cycle from youth to adulthood, I now feel responsible to advocate for those who lack the legal wherewithal necessary to maneuver through the courts.
My research on the “natural-born” citizen prompted my passion for studying law. In addition to unveiling my presidential eligibility, I realized the Constitution’s words are more meaningful and malleable than I perceived them to be. This realization instilled in me an appreciation for perspective and interpretation, as well as a drive to dissect legislative language. Like the passive consumption of high school history as fact, the law is often regarded as static by the average American. But as a student of the law, I feel obliged to add perspective and uncover depth in the words that govern our country.
My academic career and professional experience have prepared me to delve confidently into my post-graduate education. For nearly two years as a legal assistant intern, I have drafted judgment affidavits, worked closely with attorneys and clients, and have met deadlines. These responsibilities taught me the importance of accuracy and of understanding legal processes. Furthermore, my experience working in a law firm taught me facets of law that could not be taught in the classroom setting, a setting I know well as not only a student, but also a committed teaching assistant at my university. My work grading students’ exams and collaborating with esteemed professors has effectively reinforced legal and political concepts I learned throughout my undergraduate education, fostered my communication skills amongst colleagues, and calibrated my competence for critical analysis. By juggling work assignments, class assignments, and assisting to further the education of my peers, I have cultivated a forward-thinking and independent mind with the propensity to plan, prioritize, and problem-solve.
I am equally confident that City University of New York Law School is the institution that will further my legal development and growing appreciation for public service. As a New Yorker myself, the opportunity to excel at CUNY Law School would allow me to pay homage to the streets that raised me. I value the emphasis CUNY Law School places on diversity and believe I can learn more about the legal landscape from those with different experiences and viewpoints than my own. CUNY's employment of a diverse legal faculty and appreciation for minority students guarantees such. Likewise, I am eager to gain applicable legal expertise through CUNY Law School's renowned clinical program as working with professionals while maintaining a rigorous course load will prepare me for a demanding career as an attorney. Moreover, I am most impressed by CUNY Law School's dedication to nurturing public servants. CUNY Law School, and its reputation as a flagship public interest institution, is the perfect catalyst to propel me into serving the human needs of the citizens New York City . If admitted, I believe that upon the completion of my coursework the skills I entered 1L with will be polished, my academic, professional, and personal relationships will be diversified, and my professional goals will be very much attainable.
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