Monday Morning Message 8.17.20 Remember Your Why.

Posted 2020-08-17 10:26am

“Come to the edge” he said. They said, “We are afraid.“ “Come to the edge,” he said. They came. He pushed them…and they flew.” – Guillaume Apollinaire

“Study while others are sleeping, decide while others are delaying, prepare while others are daydreaming, begin while others are procrastinating, work while others are wishing, persist while others are quitting”  - Anonymous

We are excited that today is the first day of our virtual orientation for our first year class of very talented students.

The weeklong orientation schedule, organized by a team led by Associate Dean Carolyn Broering- Jacobs, includes a virtual Eighth District Court of Appeals Oral Argument about a family's attempt to recover from Facebook for the murder of their loved one because the murderer announced his intent to kill on Facebook, an Implicit Bias Training, and a session on the Rule of Law and Civil Discourse led by Professors David Forte and Kevin O’Neill and Judge Patricia Blackmon ‘75, a CSU CMLAW Jurist-in-Residence.

Below are some excerpts from my message to our first year class which I’ll give tomorrow evening.

You are entering law school at a defining moment in history.

Much of your first semester will be remote rather than in-person. It’s not what you wanted. It’s not what any of us wanted.

How you face the uncertainty that has been thrust on you by the virus of Covid-19 and the virus of racism, bigotry, and hate that divides our country will test you in ways that past first year students have never been tested.

At this moment, your past scores, grades, and successes as well as your past defeats, failures, and mistakes are behind you.

You get to choose how you start your next chapter. Your mindset is in front of you. Your attitude will determine your altitude.

Believe in yourself. You earned this.

Show up every day. Give your best.

Change the way you look at uncertainty. Lean into it and embrace it.

Remember your why. Why you chose this path. Your why is what drove you to this place.

You chose CSU Cleveland-Marshall because you wanted to be on the front lines. You didn’t just want to make a point; you wanted to make a difference.

Remember that you are pursuing your dream of being a guardian of justice by living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.

Our mission is to Learn Law, Live Justice. Just as coronavirus will test how you learn law, so will the virus of racism and injustice test your resolve to live justice.

After coronavirus is behind us, we will continue to live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. You will be far better prepared to thrive and lead in that world than many of our past graduates because of the challenges and opportunities you face now.

So pivot. Turn this virus on its head.

Turn this crazy time we live in into a chance to hone your leadership skills. To enhance your adaptability. To hone your resiliency. To get comfortable with the unknown.

You’re here not only to be a great lawyer. You’re here to be a great leader.

Consider yourself fortunate, not unlucky.

Law School Deans used to say to first year students, “Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you will not be here next year.”  I have a very different message for you. “Look to your virtual left. Look to your virtual right. The classmates you see will be real friends and colleagues for life.”

When you were admitted to CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, each of  you received what many believe to be the best novel ever written, To Kill a Mockingbird. It is the story of a crusading lawyer, Atticus Finch, and his fight for moral truth and racial justice. It was our gift to you because of the path you have chosen and because the story of CSU Cleveland-Marshall is also an iconic story of justice and equality. 

In our 123-year history of leadership and innovation in legal education, we were the first law school in Ohio to admit women and one of the first to admit African-Americans. Ever since, we have been a “door-opener” law school for many women and men who have broken gender, race, ethnic, and generational barriers to achieve great success.

You will learn at the same law school where giants have learned. Judge Mary Grossman ’12; Governor Frank Lausche ’21; Norman Minor ’27; Max Ratner ’29; Judge Jean Murrell Capers 45; Judge John Manos ’50; Congressman Louis Stokes ’53; Mayor Carl Stokes ’56; and Tim Russert’ 76, just to name a few.

The killing of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer and the systemic racism it has exposed and amplified reminds us that we have a responsibility to continue opening doors and minds and to carry the torch of justice that has been passed to you.

To paraphrase LeBron James, you were not given this opportunity; you earned it. You have met our high standards for admission. Now you must earn the right not only to stay here, but to shine here. Here’s my Serenity Prayer for you.

Dean Fisher’s Serenity Prayer for CSU C|M|LAW Law Students

God grant me the serenity to accept that pursuing my dream is living a few years of my life like most people won’t, so I can spend the rest of my life like most people can’t.

The courage to change from learning information to learning how to think, understand, analyze, and apply what I have learned.

And the wisdom to know that law school will not test my knowledge as much as it will test my state of mind and body.

Taking each day and each course one at a time.

Focusing on the moment, parking my worries and fears in the past, and visualizing success.

Accepting that the harder I want something, the greater I’ll feel when I achieve it.

Taking my classmates not as competitors but as future colleagues for life.  

Trusting in my skills and surrendering to an unshakeable belief in myself.

Supremely happy that I am not only learning law but also learning how to live justice.

We have your back. We are your law school for life. Welcome to the CSU Cleveland-Marshall family.

*This Week’s Monday Moment: Managing the Stress and Uncertainty of Coronavirus

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay Committed to Living Justice.

Have a great day. Have a great week.

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

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My views in all my Monday Morning Messages are my personal views alone and do not reflect the views of our law school or our university.

My best,


Lee Fisher
Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law 
| Cleveland State University
Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law

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