Transformational Internship with Washtenaw Public Defender
Christian Ledford thought he understood the principles of criminal justice. A Public Affairs summer internship led him to "ask bigger question on complex issue."
Hello, my name is Christian J. Ledford and I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today to speak to you at the University's Celebrating Donors event. I am a senior here at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and I am currently triple majoring in Economics, History, and Political Science with a concentration in Political Theory. I am a 2018 University of Michigan - Dearborn Difference Maker, an honor that I was humbled to both be nominated for and receive. I am a member of the University's campus Model Arab League team, in which I have served as a delegation head for two consecutive years, as well as a founding member of the UM-Dearborn chapter of Chi Alpha and a staff writer for the University's student newspaper, The Michigan Journal.
Throughout my previous three years here at the University of Michigan -Dearborn, I have had nothing but positive experiences and remarks to make. The education I have received from the University's faculty and professorial staff has been unparalleled in its consistent engagement, challenge, and applicability. The Honors Program, which I am a grateful member of, has been a consistent facilitator of higher learning and thought at the University. During my time at the University, I have also had the absolutely tremendous opportunity to travel abroad; in August 2016, I traveled to the Sultanate of Oman on the Persian Gulf with political science professor Dr. Ronald Stockton on a study trip organized by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR). Additionally, the diversity of the University's campus and student body, both in identity and ideology, deserves commendation. However, the specific University experience which I am with you here today to discuss is my involvement and participation in the University's Public Affairs Internship program, which, as you may know, is funded, in part, through the generous contributions of donors such as yourselves.
Last summer, from May 2017 to August 2017, I was a participant in the Public Affairs Internship Program, led by Dr. Nancy Kursman, as well as a recipient of the donor-funded Public Affairs Internship scholarship. This scholarship made it possible for me to hold a position at the Washtenaw County Office of the Public Defender, where I was placed as an intern with Assistant Public Defender Colina E. Anderson at the 14-A2 District Court in downtown Ypsilanti, Michigan and assisted in handling misdemeanor cases ranging from traffic violations to drug possession to domestic violence. My duties in Ypsilanti included interviewing and networking with Public Defender clients prior to their court appearances, both in-person and over the phone, as well as visiting the Washtenaw County Jail at interviewing, informing, and consoling clients there. This internship was a tremendous opportunity that not only allowed me to gain an inside experience on the inner workings of our court system but also to develop firsthand principles of effective, ethical, and liberal principles of criminal justice.
For example, my internship with the Washtenaw Public Defender allowed me to answer for myself the age-old question: How can you defend those who are "guilty"? In working with the capable, dedicated, and principled Mrs. Colina Anderson at the Public Defender, I quickly discovered that this is the wrong question to ask of public defense; rather than assigning arbitrary notions of "guilt" or "innocence", the responsibility of public defenders is to protect the constitutional rights and natural liberty of our clients and ensure that, in the state's quest to punish or imprison them, they receive the fullest and most effective legal defense possible. As my own personal political philosophy is centered on ideals of individual liberty and natural rights as the highest virtue of any and all ethical government, I came to have great respect for the work of public defenders; additionally, my personal experience during the internship also led to me to develop and ask bigger questions on complex issues such as overpolicing, the war on drugs, and racism in the criminal justice process. Without my 2017 internship with the Washtenaw Public Defender, I would assuredly not have been able to as potently reexamine my own principles or as adequately beg the important aforementioned questions, by extension, this means that this reexamination and these questions are thanks solely to the contributions made by our valued University of Michigan - Dearborn donors, which we are celebrating here today.
Assuredly, my own experiences are but a mere fraction of the benefit that comes from donor contributions to the University of Michigan - Dearborn. Donor contributions fund UM-Dearborn student experiences abroad. Donor contributions fund internships both nationally and internationally for UM-Dearborn students. Donor contributions aid underprivileged students by giving them scholarship opportunities to attend the University of Michigan - Dearborn and partake in the supremely beneficial campus educational and life experiences I've discussed in detail. In the end, I myself, in addition to thousands more University of Michigan-Dearborn students, owe you, our valued donors, an immense debt of gratitude. Your contributions take part in creating true civic leaders, social activists, and champions for human betterment through the fostering of experiences such as my own in the Public Affairs Internship Program. It is truly thanks to your generosity, your resolve, and your dedication to higher learning that the University of Michigan – Dearborn is not only among the best universities in southeast Michigan, but our country. Go Blue!
--Christian gave these remarks at Celebrating Donors on May 4, 2018