Blind Student At Amy Coney Barrett Hearing: She Means What She Says And She Says What She Means | Video | RealClearPolitics

Blind Student At Amy Coney Barrett Hearing: She Means What She Says And She Says What She Means

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Laura Wolk, a former law student of Judge Amy Coney Barrett's at the University of Notre Dame, testified on Oct. 15 in the final day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Barrett. Wolk spoke about the support and compassion she received from Barrett in law school when sharing her fears about completing her coursework as a student who is blind.

"You have heard over the past few days about Judge Barrett's judicial qualities, which are beyond reproach but should you confirm Amy Barrett the country will receive something far greater than simply an unparalleled legal mind," Wolk said. "It will gain the service of one of the kindest individuals I have ever known. Her brilliance is matched only by her compassion, and her integrity is unassailable."

"Anyone who has interacted with her knows that she is a woman of her word," she said. "She means what she says, and she says what she means. When she promised to advocate for me, she commanded my trust."


LAURA WOLK: Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Feinstein, and members of the committee, my name is Laura Wolk, and I am a former student and mentee of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. In part because of her unwavering support, I am the first blind woman to serve as a law clerk on the Supreme Court of the United States. It is now my immense privilege to appear before you in support of Judge Barrett's nomination to that same great institution.

You have heard over the past few days about Judge Barrett's judicial qualities, which are beyond reproach but should you confirm Amy Barrett the country will receive something far greater than simply an unparalleled legal mind.

It will gain the service of one of the kindest individuals I have ever known. Her brilliance is matched only by her compassion, and her integrity is unassailable.

I am not speaking in mere abstractions here. Rather, I have experienced these characteristics first-hand with life-changing results. Because I am completely blind, I rely heavily on assistive technology to compete on a level playing field with my sighted peers.

Before arriving at Notre Dame Law School in 2013, I worked hard to ensure that the university would purchase backup copies of the technology I use, but upon arrival, I discovered that bureaucratic glitches left me without access to that technology, and on cue, my personal laptop immediately began to fail.

Overnight, I found myself struggling to keep up in class, falling increasingly behind with each passing hour. I needed help, and I needed it fast. I had been Judge Barrett's student only for a few weeks, but her graciousness and warmth gave me hope that she could provide me with that assistance. Even so, I maintained relatively low expectations. Based on my past experience, I assumed that Judge Barrett would simply direct me to the proper bureaucratic channels, which could still take weeks, if not longer, to navigate.

But Judge Barrett did something altogether different. She silently listened with deep attention as I explained my situation, giving me the freedom to let down my guard and come apart. As a disabled person, I am accustomed to acting as if I have everything under control when in reality the world feels like it is spinning out from under me.

But in front of Judge Barrett, I was able to let the mask slip, and indeed to disappear completely. I poured out all my concerns, not just about technology and my worries about failing classes, but all the burdens I currently carried as a disabled woman navigating a brand-new environment.

When I finished, Judge Barrett leaned forward and looked at me intently. Laura, she said, with the same measured conviction that we have seen displayed throughout her entire nomination process, this is no longer your problem. It's my problem. I can't capture adequately the relief that washed over me at her words. Her offer was rare enough in its own right, but even when such offers are extended, many unfortunately do not follow through. It's hard to trust an offer of assistance no matter how desperately it is needed or earnestly it is given.

Not so with Judge Barrett. Anyone who has interacted with her knows that she is a woman of her word. She means what she says, and she says what she means. When she promised to advocate for me, she commanded my trust.

To this day, I do not know what Judge Barrett did to solve my problem, itself a testament to her humility. All I know is that the technology arrived promptly, which in turn allowed me to excel and to place me in a position that would eventually allow me to apply for a clerkship on the Supreme Court.

This encounter was the first in which Judge Barrett demonstrated the depth of her generous spirit, but it was far from the last. She has remained a constant source of strength, encouragement and solace as I have pursued professional and personal opportunities with no roadmap to guide me. Through her mentorship, she has given me a gift of immeasurable value, the ability to live an abundant life with the potential to break down barriers so that I can leave this world a better place than I found it.

Though I am here today to share with you my story, the very best aspect of that story is that it is hardly unique. Those who have had the benefit of knowing Amy Coney Barrett understand that she possesses a boundless font of energy and a radical sense of love that she is ever ready to pour out upon those lucky enough to call her teacher, boss, family and friend.

Judge Barrett will serve this country with distinction, not only because of her intellectual prowess, but also because of her ability to treat everyone as an equal, deserving of complete respect. As a beneficiary of both of these qualities, I urge you to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States. Thank you.
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