For those of you who know me personally -- or know enough about my resume -- at one time I was a theater person. And at another time, I was a marketing person for law firms. Those two odd bullet points got me invited to make a pitch for promoting one of Stanford University's most interesting events in the late 1990's: the public acknowledgement/thank-you to the Crown family, for making a spectacular gift to the Stanford Law School. It was a big moment for the University and the law school, which boasts a great number of celebrity alumni. I won the job through a combination of ideas and connections -- how else does anyone find work? -- and I got my first and last experience working with the two alums that made the event a great success: Justice (now retired) Sandra Day O'Connor, and, as I was instructed to say by the protocol police, "Mr. Chief Justice Rehnquist."
For those of you who know me personally -- or know enough about my resume -- you will know that this was a funny moment for me, for my personal politics run counter to the two justices. But it was one of my favorite experiences as a communications professional, and I thoroughly enjoyed my short brush with the Supremes (confession: Sandra was by far the tougher of the two). Turns out that the Chief and I had one thing in common: a love for theater. In fact, the robe he wore at all official court appearances was designed after a costume he admired from a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe. That he liked low drama also helped with the overall concept for the Stanford event, the retrial of Lizzie Borden (I was the producer and writer, not PR person), in which both justices played the part of the original bench, and the audience played the part of the jury (Ms. Borden was acquitted again). At the end of it all, backstage, Mr. Rehnquist lifted a glass ... and nodded. It was a gentle gesture, from a gentle person, whose differences with his many collaborators that evening were bridged for a short but memorable moment.