The Law School was pleased to welcome Dr. Ela Bhatt, recent recipient of the University of Chicago's 2007 William Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service, this past Tuesday for a public lecture, followed by an intimate lunch with students. Dr. Bhatt, one of the world's most remarkable pioneers and entrepreneurial forces in grassroots development, is the founder of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a trade union which now has more than a million members. Known as the "Gentle Revolutionary" for her Gandhian-approach, Dr. Bhatt has dedicated her life to improving the lives of India's poorest and most oppressed female workers. It is events like these that make U of C different from other law schools and what draw students (and alums on occasion!) to the Law School. One of our 2L students, Dan Rawner, below describes his impression of this unique opportunity to interact with a pioneer in international women's rights.
"Listening to a "do-gooder" like Ela Bhatt talk about micro-finance and women's rights, and then having lunch with her, is perplexing. .... People who create positive change in this world are not often recognized, but her accomplishments (creating the largest union of women workers on the planet?!) are great enough to get past that. The perplexing part is that she was quite normal and likable. She doesn't travel with a posse, she was well-grounded and even talked about her daughter -- among deeper issues -- at lunch. I was not sure if I should be deferential or friendly -- I did a little of both.
Listening to her was also refreshing ... as to reasoning and tone. She answered questions, for lack of a better term, "differently." She answered each part of the question, even parts I didn't believe needed a response. Her answers were creative and well-reasoned -- but did not lead to the same conclusion as my legal mind. She appeared hard pressed to choose between policies, rather she focused on results and using different means under different policies to get to the same place in a moral way. Refreshing."
Exposure to this type of "refreshing" experience is one of the hallmarks of the Law School's interdisciplinary approach to learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. For more, take a listen to Dr. Bhatt's lecture now.