Both our fathers became established ministers at settled churches. Both our families determined we should have the best education possible, even if it meant leaving home.
From this world, even if one is not devout, one gains a sense that we are all here to work for something greater than Ourselves. One is taught that service is the rent we pay for living here on this earth, and that helping someone else is the best way to feel better about one's self.
Emory Buckner kept a picture of his father in his office, and often referred to him in oral argument. So too has my family been an inspiration for me.
There are those who say that public service requires great sacrifices, and it does.
But when I compare the sacrifices of salary and time to those my family has made over the generations, all so that the next generation could have a better life, those pale by comparison.
My father tells the story of my great great grandfather, the first generation of preachers we can identify in the family, who was a free black man in antebellum North Carolina. While it is unclear how he came to have his freedom, it certainly gave him a life those still enslaved did not have. He would have lived his life as a free man, but he was to meet my great great grandmother, the woman he wanted to marry. And while he was free, she was not, but was still enslaved. Unable to purchase her, in order to marry her he had to stay on and re-enter bondage.
That's a sacrifice.
And I will confess I never understood it, until I met my own husband, and I realized that when you find the person who truly has your heart, not only are you always home, you are always free.
My great great grandfather sacrificed his freedom for the woman he loved and the family he wanted. If he could do that to have the future of his choice, then nothing I have given up feels like a loss to me.
Some say that public service carries some risk. One is in the public eye often taking unpopular positions. These could impact one's chances to return to private life. Sometimes there is physical risk as well, as we have seen with recent case involving threats to both a judge and an AUSA in my own district.