Tessa Platt '01
Making service a practice.
As a middle school student, Tessa Platt traveled with her father from her home in Medford, Ore., to the steps of Salem's Capitol building. They were there to lobby for a bill that would clarify the law surrounding the legality of window tinting, their family's business.
For eight years, Platt watched her father's struggle, a fight that involved a lawsuit against the State of Oregon and efforts that culminated in the passage of new legislation. Her observations of this process sparked her interest in law and started her on the path to Harvard Law School, where she is completing her third year of study.
"I saw the power law had to affect all individuals," says Platt. "From then on, I wanted a career in law and public service."
With her heart set on law school, Platt attended North Medford High School, where she was active in drama and debate. During the summer between her junior and senior year, she worked as a Congressional page in Washington, D.C. She fell in love with the city and the legal processes that took place there. "I knew then that I wanted to live and work in D.C. someday," recalls Platt.
But Platt also knew that her family could not afford to send her to college. She would need scholarships, and so she set out to earn them.
After graduating as the valedictorian of North Medford High, Platt received financial aid to attend Willamette University, where she earned degrees in history and Russian. She became the first person in her family to graduate from a four-year college - and on top of that success, she was accepted to Harvard Law School and awarded a $19,000 Fulbright grant, a scholarship that funds recent graduates' coursework and research abroad.
Harvard allowed Platt to defer her enrollment so she could travel to Moscow. There she researched the Russian perspective on Soviet and post-Soviet history and politics. The most interesting part of the experience, she says, was immersing herself in the Russian culture or "spirit," as they call it in Moscow.
"I loved attending the Russian ballet and having the opportunity to study politics and history while I traveled," says Platt. "And after my Fulbright, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of traveling around Europe for several weeks. I look forward to a return trip sometime soon!"
When Platt returned to the United States, she began law school at Harvard and took an active role in numerous student groups, including the Federalist Society, a vibrant conservative community. She has served as treasurer of the Law School Council, chair of the Student Funding Board, and senior editor of the Journal of Law and Public Policy.
Some of the issues Platt hopes to influence through her work in the public sector are the sanctity of marriage and the right to life. "I'm most interested in religious liberties and how they are protected by constitutional law and appellate litigation," she says. "I want to continue working in these areas either through the government or by actively participating in pro bono projects."
Upon graduating from Harvard in spring of 2006 and completing her clerkship, Platt plans to move to Washington, D.C., to either practice appellate litigation for a firm, secure a position with the Department of Justice or work in the Bush administration. Where these experiences might lead she isn't sure, but one thing she says is certain: "I want to give back to the community with my legal career."
Although Platt admits some people might find it cheesy, she often quotes Willamette's motto. "I've always remembered 'Not unto ourselves alone are we born,'" she says. "I don't want to live in a bubble, and I've been very fortunate to get my education, so I have really made an effort to put Willamette's motto into practice in my life."