South Carolina's Flagship University

Pro Bono Program

USC Law Pro Bono Program Highlighted at White House Ceremony

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On July 15, 2013 President and Mrs. Obama used the occasion of the Recognition of the 5000th Daily Point of Light Celebrating the Vision of President George H.W. Bush to honor 23 Daily Points of Light. The USC School of Law Pro Bono Program, as #444, was one of those special honorees and Pam Robinson, the director of the program was privileged to be the person who attended the ceremony and reception at the White House.

Below Pam recounts her experiences at the White House and shares her photos:

From the moment the engraved invitation arrived to the instant I walked up the stairs to the music of the Marine Band, I carried the knowledge that I was in the White House because of the dedication to the pro bono ethic of our students past, present and future. This knowledge was first and foremost in my mind. I gained real inspiration from Molly Barker, Founder of Girls on the Run and knew this was an extra special event as we were in the East Room with two Presidents and two First Ladies! But each person that congratulated me heard a story about our students! I got to brag to other Points of Light honorees about the dedication of our volunteer guardians ad litem, researchers and tax preparers. I spoke of the long relationships with SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center and the 11th Circuit Juvenile Arbitration Program with members of Congress. And as the only Law School Pro Bono Program to ever be the recipient of a Daily Point of Light Award I knew we were extra special and was happy to let others know that too. Discussing the Rural Justice Project with a young man whose whole life centered around cleaning up the Mississippi River was a fun experience- Chad and I had a lot in common! With other leaders of organizations I had the opportunity to talk about incorporating pro bono work as part of a students professional identity. I reminded funders that volunteers are not free and that infrastructure spending was critical and when President Obama said, " we are a people who serve". I knew he was talking about my students and that I would get to carry that message from the White House to the Law School!

In addition to representing the Law School Pro Bono Program as an honoree I was also in attendance as a judge for the 5,000 Point of Light. Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton were inspiring recipients and I will always remember Floyd telling me, " Kathy is the heart, I am the hands." He was looking forward to getting back to work!

The peer reviewed judging process gave me great insight into the work performed by the Points of Light. As someone who daily recognizes the work of volunteers and understands the vital importance recognition is to a volunteer program it was an interesting process to work on a national stage. It never hurts to shine a little light on those who are doing amazing work. If you know someone who is deserving of such recognition I urge you to nominate them to be a Daily Point of Light, you never know !

Many have asked what it was like to be allowed to wander the State Rooms in the East Wing of the White House and my only word that truly describes the experience is "surreal". First, I could not believe they gave the 200 invited guests such free reign to roam and photograph and second, the Obama's really mean it when they say, it is the people's house!

As you look at these photos and listen to President Obama's speech (http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/313972-2) I hope each and every alumni, student and applicant will stand a bit taller, remind someone of what an effective Pro Bono Program we have and then prove it by going out and making a difference. It was a great day for the USC School of Law and I appreciated the opportunity to be the person who carried the banner.

This Fall the Pro Bono Board will host a series of Welcome 1L Drop in's in the Pro Bono Office where we will have snacks and soft drinks and introduce the new class to the volunteer opportunities and projects available to them. It won't be a champagne reception in the State Dining Room but we hope these new students will bask in the 22 year history of the Pro Bono Program and start to build their own legacy.

You are encouraged to check out the Pro Bono Program webpages. If you do not find the answer to your question or would like to discuss a funding opportunity please feel free to contact me at 803-777=3405 or Robinspd@law.sc.edu