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Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson tells law students that ‘Survivor’ offers useful lessons


Jackson, the court’s first black female justice, is nearing the end of her first term on the court. The justices have finished hearing arguments for the term and are expected to deliver all of their remaining opinions by the end of June before going on summer break. Major decisions on affirmative action and President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan have yet to be announced.

In his speech, Jackson described “Survivor,” in which contestants are deposited in a remote tropical location and take on challenges in hopes of ultimately winning $1 million, as “fantastic fun to watch.” But she also said it holds “a number of broader lessons that are useful in becoming a good lawyer.”

One lesson, she said, is to “make the most of the resources you have,” drawing a parallel to when she was a federal public defender and prosecutors always seemed to have more resources. Jackson said she knows “what it’s like to commit to moving forward even when the deck is stacked against you” and also talked about a Survivor contestant with a prosthetic leg who nevertheless triumphed over a difficult challenge, that involved a balance beam.

“My advice to you is to do your best to shut out distractions, use your time wisely and figure out how to make the most of what you have,” Jackson said.

Other lessons from the show are to “know your strengths” and to “play the long game,” she said.

The latter advice could serve the liberal justice well on the Supreme Court, where her colleagues include six conservatives and two other liberals, making it unlikely that her views will prevail in some of the term’s most contentious cases when they are announced over the next many years. weeks.

“Season after season, the players who tend to do really well are the ones who seem to come in with the understanding that this game is about existing in both community and conflict,” she said of “Survivor .”

Jackson said players who go the distance are the ones who “choose optimism and lift the spirits of the other tribe members no matter what happens.”

“They try to stay as cool as possible without getting carried away by dramatic wins or heartbreaking losses,” she said.

Jackson’s commencement address was the first she has given since becoming a judge. The school’s dean of law, Roger Fairfax, is someone she met in college at Harvard University. His wife, Lisa Fairfax, is one of Jackson’s best friends and former roommates and introduced her at her Senate confirmation hearing.

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