A Trip To The Capitol

How an afternoon at Jefferson City helped me gain confidence for my future.

The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City is much larger in person.

The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City is much larger in person.

Jim Tarrant, Reporter

High school seniority is a strange thing for a lot of people. For some, it’s the satisfying conclusion to three years of hard work, relationships and self-discovery. For others, it’s a period of unparalleled uncertainty.

For awhile, I really didn’t have an idea of what I was going to do out of high school, outside of moving away eventually. However, my cousin, who is a clerk for the Supreme Court, invited me down to Jefferson City last Wednesday to sit in on a couple court cases. After seeing what my career might look like, I think I have a really clear vision of my life after high school.

It was a cool early morning when I drove all by myself to the Missouri Supreme Court. I had a closing shift at my job the night earlier, but that didn’t stop me from feeling alert and energetic. I drove down Highway 70 for an hour and 30 minutes, listening to music and collecting my thoughts as I went along. I arrived at about 8:30 a.m., the court meeting starting at 9. It was my first time in Jefferson City. The capitol building was a lot bigger than I was expecting. There weren’t a lot of places you could go around town without seeing it. It was under repairs, so almost all of it was covered by a large tarp, but it was still impressive to see such a massive building in such a small town.

I met up with my cousin at the front steps of the courthouse. After walking inside, I passed through a metal detector and up a wide, marble staircase. We stepped into a surprisingly cold room, greeting the other clerks as we came in. After sitting in a pleasantly comfortable chair for a couple of minutes, a man on the far left sitting in a chair hit his gavel against the block. We all stood up immediately, and the justices walked in; court was now in session. 

We sat in on five cases. All of them were extremely interesting, and despite having a bit of a hard time understanding a lot of the legal jargon, I found myself really excited and engaged. My main takeaway from the cases themselves was just how well spoken everyone needed to be to make what was going on efficient. The general structure of the debate was a 15 minute period to present your arguments, and a three minute questioning period afterwards. In that short amount of time, the lawyers were able to convey a lot of information. During their cases, the justices were engaging with the lawyers with cutting, thoughtful questions, and they responded with equally informed answers. For the first time in a long while, I felt passionate about what my future could look like.

We got out of session at noon. After putting more coins in the parking meter, my cousin took me down to a nice Italian restaurant down the street. We talked a lot about the cases, but we also talked about jobs, college, life, and the really good lasagna I had. It had been a while since I last saw him, so I had a lot to tell him about my plans for the future.

After lunch, my cousin and I walked back to my car so I could drive home. At that moment, I felt this indescribable sense of optimism about where my life is going. A lot of my high school career was spent wondering what I would be doing in college and after I graduate, and because of that I wasn’t able to focus on what I needed to do in the present. I hope this inspires you to experiment and try to find what career will make you happy in life.