Undergraduate students and the University of Tennessee College of Law students alike arrived with members of the Knoxville community at Alumni Memorial Building Friday, Oct. 19, to hear Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan speak for the annual Rose Lecture.
The event consisted of a conversation-style discussion between Justice Kagan and Doug Blaze, Dean of the College of Law. Later, third-year law students had the opportunity to do a question and answer session. The lecture was held in the Alumni Memorial Building's Cox Auditorium at 1 pm.
The evening before the discussion, Kagan served as the presiding judge in the Advocate's Prize competition through UT's College of Law Moot Court.
Many questions asked highlighted Kagan's path to becoming a Supreme Court justice.
I feel as if the women before me have done the hard work because back then, when they said, I want to work in a law firm, they were told to be a secretary. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
“I have been very lucky because when I was going through school I was encouraged to follow my dreams and career goals. I feel as if the women before me have done the hard work because back then, when they said, I want to work in a law firm, they were told to be a secretary,” Kagan said.
Blaze asked Kagan why she believes gender diversity is valuable to the Supreme Court.
"The signal it sends to our country is important. Girls and boys see a court where women are engaging as passionately as the men, and doing as good of a job as well... When we disagree, the differences don't split along gender lines, they split along constitutional commitments," Kagan said.
Students also focused on her legal doctrine with acting as a justice, asking if how she separated her personal beliefs from legal rulings.
“There are lots of different approaches to different cases... Some cases are not clear with the law. It would be wrong to put my views in it. It would be wrong to make the Constitution think what I would want it to say. It’s not mechanical and there are often disagreements but what we are doing is law, which is not recording our own concepts of unjust and just.”
Kagan responded brightly to questions about her personal life, stating she enjoyed comic book-based movies and hunting with Justice Scalia.
Kagan's attention to issues like diversity and gender made the event relevant to different parts of the campus community.
"I was really encouraged when Justice Kagan spoke about women serving on the bench, especially when she said that the fact that she was a woman didn't really make a difference behind closed doors," Hannah Alexander, a senior in accounting, said.