Nov. 18, 2011 - The University of Houston chapter of the Black Law Student Association held its Annual Scholarship Banquet last night. The keynote speaker was the Honorable Vanessa Diane Gilmore, a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas.
The youngest judge appointed to the bench, Gilmore encouraged attendees to never “hide [their] light under a bushel - showcase your talents and your abilities!” Gilmore reminded audience members that throughout life they’ll encounter people who will underestimate them or fail to give them the credit when credit is due; but to let them change your course is nonsense. “Be true to who you are and let your light shine and eventually your time will come,” cheered Gilmore.
Gilmore also spoke on the importance of taking negative incidents and creating positive outcomes. An initial nominee for a state bench position, Gilmore was quickly ousted from the running. Defeated, but never discouraged, Gilmore helped her competitor get the job Gilmore still wanted and felt she deserved. Soon enough, the Southern District position became available and when appointed to that position, Gilmore was praised for her ability to serve others, including helping her competitor win the state position she once wanted and thought she deserved.
Gilmore also emphasized the importance of having focus, foresight and fortitude. The focus to relentlessly target your efforts and accomplish your goals. The foresight - even in today’s tough times - to look forward and never lose sight of your individual value and self-worth. And finally, the fortitude to meet and overcome all obstacles and naysayers. “You can’t always control your circumstances or how people treat you, but you can control how it affects your life,” says Gilmore. Continuing her effort to serve others, Gilmore has started the U.S. Pretrial Legal Clinic at Texas Southern University, and is the author of two books.
“She’s inspiring. I consider myself motivated, but her stories just make me want to go further and do better,” recounted first year law student, Casey Jordan. In the midst of job-hunting second year law student Jordan Sanders, said Gilmore’s words of wisdom couldn’t have come at a better time. “Her speech was just encouraging and uplifting. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel underestimated in the legal profession but you just have to remember your own value, your own worth and press forward.”
“You have to be the optimism you want to see in your life,” chimed in Tamecia Glover Harris, UH BLSA president.
Also during the evening’s festivities, the UH chapter of BLSA received recognition from the National BLSA organization for its continued improvement and high level of achievement. Impressed by the chapter’s performance, National BLSA Chair, Chibundu Nnake, attended the event to congratulate the chapter on furthering BLSA’s mission and exhibiting exemplary chapter conduct.
“Tonight was empowering. Bringing Judge Gilmore here is an example of BLSA bringing people together to empower them and hopefully advance our goal of creating a diverse presence in the profession. The lessons Judge Gilmore shared, along with the humor and humility, will without a doubt have an impact on the people present tonight,” said Nnake.
Continuing in its mission to increase diversity in the law profession, the UH BLSA chapter sponsored 12 high school students attendance to the banquet. The students, who will also attend the National Black Pre-law conference this weekend, had the opportunity to ask questions and speak with law students, lawyers and judges in attendance. BLSA president Tamecia Glover Harris said inviting the high school students reflects the chapter, and the University’s, goal to create opportunities for minorities who wish to enter the legal profession.
“For many‚ including several here tonight‚ that opportunity is the only opportunity,” says Glover Harris.
In closing, Gilmore reminded banquet attendees that possessing a legal education, coupled with a passion to help others, will lead them to opportunities they never saw coming, unlock doors they never thought would open, take them to places they never thought they’d go and bring them the success they always knew they’d find.
“And as you find success in your careers, it is my hope that you give back to your community and remember the people who believed in you along the way,” Gilmore added.
Before taking her seat, in a fashion only a federal judge could command, Judge Gilmore encouraged attendees to “never hide under a bushel” as she led the room in singing This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let It Shine.
“A room full of lawyers, law professors and law students singing a childhood hymn was a sight to see. This speaks to the impact and influence Judge Gilmore has on people,” said Harris. “It’s the simple things, like remembering your self-worth that we often forget. But it’s those things that catapult you to greatness.”
Special to UHLC News by Jordon Rolfe, 3L