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  • An'an Shen

AP Gov. Event: An Insightful Hour with Justice Amy Coney Barrett

On Feb. 12, the fall semester AP US Government and Politics students participated in an hour long Zoom talk with the nation’s newest appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court - Amy Coney Barrett. The talk turned out to be interesting, insightful, and inspiring.

Both the students and faculty members were surprised by this rare opportunity, which was made possible by Peter B. Rutledge, Dean of the UGA School of Law and an ACAD parent. Dean Rutledge has invited Justice Clarence Thomas to talk to our eighth graders in the past, and this time, he brought Justice Barrett into our high school academic conversation. Dean Rutledge, Dr. Randy Reid (humanities department chair of ACAD), and Dr. Turney worked together to make this opportunity come to fruition. Last semester’s AP Gov class was chosen to participate in this talk because they already covered the entire curriculum, including the topics related to the judicial branch, and a small group was more conducive to active participation.

However, that one hour talk was not the whole picture. The seniors and Dr. Turney did much more leading up to the meeting.

“The class met twice this semester to review the relatable materials, and brainstormed a list of questions to ask Justice Barrett. In the end, the questions were narrowed down to nine, and they were assigned to each student,” Dr. Turney said.

McKenzie Elrod asked Justice Barrett about the areas of study, jobs, or experiences that had prepared her the most for the work and expectation of the Supreme Court.

“I was quite surprised when she said her college major was English, but it makes sense after she explained,” Elrod said. “Being in law, you write a lot of explanations for your decisions, so being able to write eloquently would be beneficial in these positions.”

While Elrod was grateful for the opportunity to speak with Justice Barrett, she also found the experience a bit nerve-racking.

“Because this is such a big deal, I was terrified to address her with the wrong term, but it turned out that she’s ‘down to earth’ with us and very willing to talk,” Elrod said.

Though Elrod was not the only student who was a bit nervous, the faculty members in attendance were impressed by the students’ performance.

“We were so proud of their attentiveness, professionalism, and politeness,” Dr. Turney said.

Even though the talk only lasted one hour, it was a treasured lesson for these seniors. Justice Barrett covered a wide range of topics, varying from her daily justice routine to advice for seniors. The students appreciated her sincere and honest sharing, learned valuable academic advice from her, and were inspired by her spirit. Elrod views justices from a new perspective after the talk.

“The political ideologies (in the Supreme Court) do not play a big factor into the decisions as the media like to portray,” Elrod said, “So my biggest take-away is that when I look at the media talking about the justices, I need to filter it with my own eyes and mind.”

From the teaching perspective, Dr. Turney believes it was meaningful for the students to see how Justice Barrett had encountered some of the concepts that were taught in class. Students were likewise impressed by the chance to hear Justice Barrett’s real-world perspective.

“The personal details paired with what we learned textually gave me a more holistic understanding of the judicial branch,” Elrod said.

Elrod and her fellow students would love to see more guest speaker events in the future.

“This is one of the coolest events that I’ve participated in at Athens Academy,” Elrod said. “As someone who wants to go into law or politics, I might remember this for the rest of my life.”

Photo of AP Gov Class on Zoom Call with Amy Coney Barrett. Photo by Kelly Cuneo.