Chris Mercer, a 3L at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law was a runner-up in a win-a-trip contest sponsored by New York Times blogger Nicholas Kristof. In the interview below, Mercer describes his topic and how human rights abuses inspired him to enter the contest.
What inspired you to enter Nicholas Kristof’s Win-a-Trip Contest?
I entered the contest because I felt the experience would help further my career goals in fighting human rights abuses in developing countries. The win-a-trip contest provides for an individual to accompany Nicolas Kristof to developing countries and report on global poverty issues and human rights. The winner writes articles for The New York Times. As soon as I heard about the contest, I knew this was an opportunity I could not pass up.
What did you write about?
My essay mainly focused on my experience in South Africa while interning with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies during the fall semester, and how the experience incited my desire to have a career in human rights work. Specifically, I wrote about my proudest achievement as an intern at CALS, which occurred late on a Friday night in the small town of Mafikeng. A local municipality tried to deny a women’s group the right to assemble and protest the recent police brutality in Marikana. I helped bring an urgent application in the North West High Court, Mafikeng. I assisted with the cross-examination of the municipality’s star witness who made a critical concession under the line of questioning I had prepared for the attorney. As such, the judge declared the municipality’s reasons for denying the march were frivolous and ordered the peaceful assembly to proceed. Less then 24 hours after the judge’s ruling, the women protested against the Marikana police. There are few moments in my life that I am more proud of than I was on that Friday night
What did the experience teach you?
The experience itself did not teach me anything per se. However, even though I was one of four runner-ups, the acknowledgment from Nicholas Kristof and The New York Times gave me great confidence in the work I have done thus far. The acknowledgment is an honor in and of itself.