SVUDL Salutes Champions of the Legal Pipeline Challenge
Volume #7, Week of November 19, 2018
Special Salute: Champion of Champions of the SVUDL Legal Pipeline Challenge
James Basile, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis and a board member of SVUDL, has inspired his colleagues and his firm to contribute over $180,000 to the Legal Pipeline Challenge since 2015. Once again in 2018, for the fourth consecutive year, Kirkland & Ellis is the top donor to the Legal Pipeline Challenge. Why does SVUDL resonate so strongly with Jim?
“High school speech and debate changed my life. I came from a blue collar background. My father worked in the Pennsylvania Railroad freight yards and moonlighted as a bartender. But he wanted more for his children. When he saw that our school had a debate program, he insisted (with limited enthusiasm from me) that I try out.
The moment I began to participate, it was like a light switch went on. A world of ideas opened for me. I began to imagine doing things and going places of which I previously hadn't dreamed. I learned essential skills: critical thinking, logic, research, the ability to see both sides of complex issues and how to speak in public. Perhaps more important, speech and debate taught lessons of character: hard work and personal responsibility, delivering on deadlines, working as a team, and learning to compete in pressure situations.
Through all of this, my confidence soared. Moreover, I was surrounded by kids experiencing the same transformation. By swimming in a sea of other awakening young minds, I benefited from their experiences and gifts rubbing off on me through competition, collaborative work and just bull sessions. In this way, social interaction among speech and debate participants leads to geometric growth in skills and understanding. It also creates deep, lifelong friendships.
I went on to college, law school, worked on law review and became a partner at a large national law firm. None of these experiences were as important an educational experience as the cornerstone of high school speech and debate When I see shy, uncertain students blossom into confidence, competence and self-motivation, I think back to how doubting and scared I was when I started, and I marvel at the transformational power of the activity.
It is for these reasons that I feel so strongly about SVUDL and what it can do. Speech and debate - by providing actual portable skills transferable to professions, business and academia - provides a singular opportunity for students to learn to operate effectively within a wide variety of settings and institutions. Having those skills will enable students to fulfill their potential, achieve their aspirations and to work to shape society in accordance with their values.
In short, SVUDL is the best educational chance for kids who are woefully underserved in our society. For just a little output in time and resources, we can change students’ lives for the better, and those lives in turn will create ripples of hope and good for their families, for others throughout their community and our country. I hope everyone who reads this will think about that and support SVUDL in its noble task.”