From your start as a Foreign Service officer to serving five two-year terms on the twelve member, bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, you have served in a wide variety of positions during your public service career. How did your time at GW Law help prepare you?
In order to see my public service career in the context of my time at GW Law, you have to have some sense of the era in which I came to maturity. When I was a 19 year old sophomore at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the hero of my youth, Senator John F. Kennedy, came to campaign in the area in the closing month of his 1960 Presidential campaign. As a Student for Kennedy, I got to shake his hand twice and to speak with him briefly. He won and on January 20, 1961 in the closing lines of his Inaugural Address he stated: “Let us go forth to lead the land we love asking His help and His blessing, but knowing here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” His words and leadership inspired me and numerous other young Americans to aspire to careers in public service as a means of helping our nation. I thought a career in the Foreign Service of the Department of State would be a good way to do that, so I set out to pass the written and oral exams then required to enter that Service. I did pass them both and in June of 1965, after completing an M.A. in International Politics at Notre Dame as a University Fellow, I arrived in Washington to be sworn in along with 25 other young Americans as a Foreign Service officer. It was for me the first time I was ever in Washington DC and I loved being in our Nation’s Capital City and our class of 25 trained together and bonded. Many of us still stay in touch through email and occasional dinners. After six months training here I was sent off to be a Vice Council of the United States in Montreal, Canada where I lived for two years. Among my duties was to follow the French Separatist Movement in which some in the Quebec Province of Canada aspired to secede from the larger Canadian nation. It was a very interesting job.
On my return to Washington in the spring of 1968 to work at the main State, I quickly saw how influential lawyers were in Washington so I applied to study law at night at the George Washington University Law School. I thought a law degree from GW Law might help advance my public service career and increase my options on how I might do so. I did not aspire to go into the private practice of law. So I took law classes at GW five nights a week around the calendar for three years and in August 1971 received my JD law degree with honors and then took and passed the D.C. bar exam. During that time at State I was working in its first office on the International Environment. After I earned my JD, State assigned me to the Office of U.N. Political Affairs to be part of its team working on the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Conference. I worked there all of 1972.
In January of 1973, wanting to learn how to litigate, I moved from the State Department to the Justice Department where I did environmental litigation for three years and argued cases in five U.S. Courts of Appeal. In 1977, I realized that getting an advanced law degree from Harvard Law School, with an emphasis on international law, might assist me to move into policy circles in D.C. where I might contribute more than just as a litigator. That year I was accepted as one of the 20 Americans who entered that one year LLM program at Harvard Law There were eighty foreign students in the program some of whom I still stay in touch with. I wrote my LLM thesis under Professor Abram Chayes, who had been President Kennedy’s Legal Adviser at the Department of State and who played a key role in resolving the Cuban Missile in October of 1962.
I believe having my JD with Honors from GW Law helped my entry into that LLM program and having the two law degrees later helped open up new opportunities for my public service. Among these were General Counsel and then Chief International Counsel of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, Assistant Secretary for Trade at the Department of Commerce, and having five two-year terms as a Commissioner on the bipartisan U.S. China Economic & Security Review Commission you mentioned in your question. That Commission is sort of a think tank on China issues for the Congress and we traveled widely in China and elsewhere in Asia frequently during my service on that Commission and issued annual Reports to the Congress with recommendations. I also had the opportunity to serve on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Asian Advisory Board.
Is there a class or experience during your time as a student at GW Law that you found particularly helpful or impactful?
I think the experience of beginning GW Law at night with a wonderful group of young people who were working full time and wanted to better their opportunities in life by obtaining a law degree from the prestigious GW Law was a bit exhilarating. The two law school courses I liked the most were Constitutional Law and Administrative Law. Both were taught by Professor Jerome Barron who later served as the Dean of the GW Law School from 1979 to 1988. He was a wonderful teacher and person and someone I stayed in touch with and occasionally sought advice from after my graduation.
Having served as the convener at the Stockton Guard during this past reunion weekend, can you tell us more about how you stayed connected with our alumni community and why it is important?
Since graduating from GW Law I have tried to stay connected to the school by attending alumni events when I could. I remember how delighted I was when in October 2011 I was invited to attend an event at the law school to become a member at the Stockton Guard just 40 years after receiving my JD. I have attended other meetings of the Guard through the years; one of the most memorable was that of October 30, 2021 when Dean Matthew rejuvenated the program after the pandemic. I enjoyed that luncheon very much as the Dean invited participants to tell a bit about themselves and what having a law degree from GW meant to them in their lives. It was great to hear their stories. I tried to follow that model when I was invited to be the convener at the Stockton Guard Luncheon held this past June 3, at the time of the GW Law School graduation. I salute the Dean for emphasizing outreach to alumni and raising the profile of these important events.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to yourself as a 1L?
I think I would give the same advice I gave to myself in September 1968 and that I gave each year to the night students I taught as an Adjunct Professor in trade law at the Catholic University and George Mason Law Schools. Feel lucky you have the chance to live in a wonderful area of our Nation where you can have a good job during the day and have the privilege of attending a wonderful law school at night with other young people who want to do good things for themselves and our society by getting a law degree. I told myself to work hard, do well and enjoy it all, and I did and will never regret having done so. Knowledge of the law is so important and can help a person have a fuller life in our Democratic Society in which the rule of law is so vital to maintaining our Governments at all levels that are by and for our citizens.
Anything else we have missed that you want to share with us?
Thank you for asking. Yes, I not only got a great legal education in obtaining my law degree at night at GW, but I also was lucky to have a fellow night law student, who worked at the Pentagon, introduce me on a blind date to his cousin, the woman who became my wife. She, like me, was inspired by JFK to public service, and had just returned from two years in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She was getting her MA at night at GW while teaching. She later got a PhD in Special Ed and worked with pre-school handicapped children. Meeting her and marrying her led to being parents of three children, and now eight grandchildren the oldest of whom is 10 and the youngest four. That indeed was an extra bonus made possible by my decision to study law at night at the GW Law. I feel that GW has contributed much to my life and to the lives of my children and now grandchildren.
Pat presently practices as a trade lawyer and consultant to groups working to reform U.S. trade and international economic policies to better serve the interests of our Republic.