Law in Contemporary Society

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-- By AlejandraCastaneda - 28 Feb 2020

My mom grew up in a small pueblo called Cacahuamilpa in Guerrero, Mexico. As a girl, she traveled alone to a neighboring town in pursuit of an education. She first set foot in the United States at age eighteen, speaking no English. Once here, she worked as a housekeeper and observed how the families whose homes she cleaned raised their children to believe that the world was full of opportunity.

In 2000, she became a U.S. citizen. She was determined to raise her only child to believe the world was full of opportunity, too

When I was young, my mom moved us away from the neighborhood where the rest of her brothers and sisters lived, a little Mexico in San Antonio, Texas, to a predominantly white community where I could get a better education. My mom encouraged me to work hard so that I could have a better life — the kind she had longed for when she first set out to live in America. I grew up with little, but I believed my future was bright, and growing up, this sense of opportunity was my North Star.

I learned the citizenship status of others in my family little by little, as I observed and questioned the way they engaged with the world. Valedictorian, salutatorian — cousin after cousin graduated with academic honors, but with no plans for college. This was the result of unlucky timing — having come to this country as children and babies. When it came to opportunity, we all understood from too an early age that without U.S. citizenship, theirs would be limited.

While I was taught to dream big, my cousins learned to practice caution, mindful of the constraints that came from living in a country with an immigration policy that is subject to change every four years. They are legal residents, Green Card holders, and DACA recipients. For me, they are examples of how life’s outcomes can be shaped by opportunities that are made possible and protected by law.

My career trajectory to-date:

May 2015 – May 2016: I conducted qualitative and quantitative research for one of two marketing agencies that managed the McDonalds? Family Business. I moderated focus groups with the target consumer – parents of 4 – 6 year olds in the Oak Brook, IL area who accompanied their children to participate in our research in exchange for $50. When we lost the McDonalds? business, I watched dozens of men - specialists who had spent most if not all of their working life engineering or designing 5-10 cent Happy Meal toys - lose their jobs.

May 2016 – November 2016: I joined the Digital Advertising team at Hillary for America with zero digital advertising experience. I managed a $15 million Facebook direct response program that reached 62 million users over a six-month period. My colleague Patrick and I resisted our Facebook Client Service Manager’s insistence that we increase the scale of our operation. I cried in the bleachers at the Javits Center when John Podesta told everyone to go home.

April 2017 – April 2018: I joined the Obama Foundation where I projected managed the development of email, social media, and web community engagement campaigns to build community support for the future presidential center in Jackson Park. Before I left, I wrote a memo suggesting that the organization reconsider describing itself as a “working, living center for citizenship,” and messaging that the most important role in society is that of “citizen.” They no longer do.

April 2018 – July 2019: I joined Priorities USA, the country’s largest Democratic super PAC, to help Democrats figure out how to use Facebook. Outstanding challenges: (1) convincing the few organizations with paid media budgets to spend less of those budgets on tv and radio and more of those budgets on Facebook and other digital platforms (2) trying to serve Americans vegetables on a platform optimized for desert.

Why does a $125/month Monster membership make me sad?

I came to law school to further develop rather than recreate myself.

In part, my interest in the law is the result of my experience as a digital advertising strategist. As someone who understands the persuasive power of digital platforms, I believe the current inability to contain the spread of misinformation online is a serious threat to our system of democracy. I want to use the law to ensure that American citizens have access to truthful information online, and I want to hold the actors who abuse and enable abuse of the internet to be held accountable for these actions. We must make changes – to our laws, our policies, our ways of thinking – to ensure that the law keeps up with the internet. To do that, it is crucial that there are people who understand the complexities of both.

My interest in the law is also personal, the result of being the daughter of a girl from Cacahuamilpa who wanted a better life for her family. I want my legal education to help me better understand the complex interactions between law and society so that I can become an effective advocate for families and communities like mine. As a member of the legal profession and as someone who deeply believes that America is worth fighting for, I hope to make our society more just by ensuring that more people, not fewer, are empowered by the promise of opportunity, just as my mom once ensured this for me.

For me, being creative in law school means discerning how to take what I need from the experience rather than allowing the experience to take me.

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r1 - 28 Feb 2020 - 22:23:32 - AlejandraCastaneda
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