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President Napolitano: My advice to new college grads and young professionals

President Napolitano shared her experience and offered the following advice in a piece that published on LinkedIn on Tuesday, May 8:

When I was a freshman at Santa Clara University, I never imagined I would have a career as a public servant. I had played in my high school band and planned to be a music major in college. I dreamt of becoming the lead clarinet in the grand New York Philharmonic, performing on stage before packed crowds at Lincoln Center.

But I quickly realized that I wasn’t destined to be a professional musician. I began to think beyond music and kept an open mind about my future. I explored other interests, channeling my energies into those and switching majors to political science. Later, I enrolled in law school with an eye toward making a difference in people’s lives.

By the time I was in my 30s, I had a burgeoning career as a partner in a prestigious law firm. I had secured a stable, respectable place in my profession and had no shortage of challenging cases, including helping to represent Anita Hill during the 1991 sexual harassment investigation of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Then President Clinton came looking for a new U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona and I had a choice to make: I could stay at the law firm and have a perfectly pleasant career, or I could take a risk and make the jump to public service. While the choice is crystal clear in retrospect, at the time I wrestled with whether to give up the career I had worked so hard to build – but ultimately, I believed I could do more good and have a richer professional life in public service.

Serving as a U.S. Attorney confirmed this, and I took the next big step — running for public office — on my own. When the Arizona Attorney General seat opened for election in 1998, I was intrigued by what I could accomplish in that role and how I could improve the lives of Arizona residents.

This was uncharted territory: No woman had ever served as Arizona’s Attorney General. To top it off, I was a Democrat in a red state. Republicans had controlled that seat for decades, and they were not going to relinquish it easily. I knew this election would be a steep uphill battle.

But at the end of the day, I didn’t want to look back on my life and career, and wonder “what if?” So I took the risk and ran what proved to be an extremely tough, hard-fought campaign.

Read the full column here in President Napolitano’s LinkedIn post.

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