Winning Essay by Nia R., University of Pennsylvania
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Although it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do in life, when I finally knew, I knew. After years of job shadows in high school, and meeting with my parents’ friends, I finally knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be someone who used their voice to impact those who did not have one. Yet it was when I read about Thurgood Marshall that I realized, who and what I really wanted to be like. As a lawyer and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall did just what I aspire to do. He created something that impacted hundreds of thousands who had their rights taken from them. He defended tens of thousands who needed a voice to get those rights. Lastly, he stood at the bench of a court and ensured that civil rights would be given to those who deserve it. He was the first black Supreme Court Justice and he has continued to remain a huge inspiration in my life.

From founding the Legal Defense and Education Fund to representing black citizens in cases like Brown v. Board, Marshall supported his communities and argued for minorities to have many of the rights that we have today. He lived his life with a purpose, showing communities that someone of color could, should, and would be heard by the American government. He used his talents to defend those who deserve justice and likewise I want to use my skills to better my community. I, too, want to be remembered for making a difference in the lives of the African-American community. He was selfless and dedicated, two qualities that I strive to remember when I live my life.

When looking at Thurgood Marshall in the span of greater history, he is not always remembered as someone who affected civil rights. People might leave that to MLK or Malcolm X. However, it was through the court system, through cases that he argued like Brown v. Board, that was able to also help make a difference. He learned that racial discrimination could be fought through existing laws and he used his brilliant mind and a law degree to help others. He was not always famous at the beginning for the work he did, but it was never about fame. It was about the legacy of African-Americans. It was about providing rights and justice to a group who continued to be treated as if they were nothing. He has motivated me to influence my community and has continued to be an inspiration in my life.

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