An Evening with Janet Reno

April 20, 2001

Newkirk Barnes, <i>Hullabaloo</i> Associate News Editor

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno addressed members of the Tulane and New Orleans communities April 16 in McAlister Auditorium. The Tulane University Campus Programming lyceum committee sponsored the event, entitled "An Evening with Janet Reno."

Tulane Law School held a reception in Renos honor in the Multipurpose Room of Weinmann Hall prior to her lecture. Students had the opportunity to discuss legal issues with the first and only female U.S. Attorney General. Reno strongly encouraged her guests to consider participating in public service activities. "Public service is such a wonderful undertaking," she said. "You remember the difference you made in people's lives. I just urge you to enter public service."

Jay Augustine, a third-year Tulane law student, presented the 78th U.S. Attorney General to the audience. He praised her because she had "successfully brought justice back to the justice system." Reno then reflected on her experiences from eight years as the chief law enforcement official under the Clinton administration.

"It was worth every bit of criticism I got," she said. "But you dont remember the criticism--you remember the exhilaration."

She first emphasized the importance of providing access to the justice system to all citizens. "There are too many people who are still without the law," she said. "It must be accessible by every American, not just those who can afford it."

Reno also noted the consequences of denying justice to certain individuals. "People who dont have access to the law feel alienated, they feel frustrated and they lash out," she said. She continued with a discussion of the state of democracy in the United States. Reno said our democracy is under attack and must be protected. She declared that democracy is an institution that requires consistent maintenance by its constituents; the people must actively uphold democracy or its opponents will overtake it.

"Haters are cowards and when confronted, they often back down, but when left to their own devices, they flourish," she said. Reno then discussed her thoughts on how the American justice system could be used to better the nation and its people. She highlighted the positive impact of technological advancements on the law, and she described the potential of knowledge to be used for good purposes. Reno also suggested that problem-solving skills should become a more central part of the educational system, particularly the law curriculum.

Furthermore, she considers an attorneys role as a problem-solver to be the most essential part of his or her profession. Problem-solving without conflict is crucial, Reno said. She believes such issues as domestic violence can be addressed through a collaboration of different academic fields at Tulane and other universities.

"Violence is going to be solved in this country with disciplines coming together to make a difference," she said. Reno then conducted a question-and-answer session. Members of the audience asked questions regarding issues ranging from Renos view of the medias role in government affairs to her opinion of current Attorney General John Ashcroft.

When asked about her decision to return Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba , Reno reaffirmed her position on the case. "I have tried to leave politics out of decisions when they didnt belong there," she said.

"The decision was based on one factor: what was right under the law." Reno also expressed her respect for the Supreme Court as "a great institution of justice." The former Attorney General even spoke on her experiences as legal guardian to 15-year-old twins. She feels communication between parents and their children is necessary to maintain an emotional connection and prevent children from pursuing a criminal lifestyle.

Reno attributes such incidents as the shootings in Littleton, Colo., to a breakdown in communication. In contrast to her lecture on several serious matters, Reno concluded her presentation by encouraging her audience not to take themselves too seriously. She alluded to her recent appearance in the "Janet Reno's Dance Party" skit on NBC-TVs "Saturday Night Live."

"Always remember to laugh," Reno said. Reno graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in chemistry in 1960. She received her L.L.B. from Harvard Law School in 1963. Reno later served 15 years as state attorney in Miami. Reno was appointed Attorney General by former President Bill Clinton on Feb. 11, 1993. She was sworn in March 12, 1993. Following the transition of presidential power in January 2001, Reno returned to her home in Florida.

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