"When you confront something that you, initially, perceive as an adversity—that's what builds character. That's your glorious moment," according to U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson, who presides in Montgomery, Ala. His story and message are recounted in a first-person video that ties in with the 2013 Law Day theme—Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.
Judge Thompson, who is African American, says the perception of his physical limitations, imposed by the onset of polio at age two, were even more restrictive than racial bias: "People thought that if you had braces on your leg, you had braces on your brain." From childhood, Thompson pushed himself to the highest levels of excellence.
Judge Thompson regained his ability to walk and lead an active life. He excelled in school, and graduated from an Ivy League university and law school. He was appointed in 1980 to the Middle District of Alabama by President Jimmy Carter. When opportunity knocked, he was prepared for it, becoming, at age 33, one of the youngest members of the federal bench: "Probably, one of the true lessons of life is always be prepared for the unexpected, because you'll never know when it will hit you."
The video is part of the Pathways to the Bench series produced by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which recounts the many life stories and lessons of federal judges. Law Day resources about the federal courts are available for students and teachers on uscourts.gov.