Sarah Anthony: On The Road to Public
1, 2001-- On a bright June morning in 1983, 18-year-old
Sarah Anthony clambered into one of two old Plymouth Valiants idling
in a driveway in West Hartford, Conn. Piloted by University of Virginia
graduates Hugh Hegyi and Bee Cumby, the two cars would carry Anthony,
3-year-old Aaron Hegyi and 1-week-old Cara Hegyi, a small library
of Dr. Seuss books, one dog, two cats, and a household packed into
two U-Haul trailers on an eight-day, 2,000-mile, cross-country trip
to a Navaho Reservation in Fort Defiance, Ariz.
U.Va. graduates -- Hegyi (Law, 79) and Cumby (Medicine, 80)
-- were embarking on new careers. He planned to establish a legal-aid
office, and she had accepted a job in an Indian health-services
office. Both would be living on the reservation and working with
Navahos near Window Rock, Ariz., capital of the Navaho nation.
who had lived a comfortable life in central Connecticut and had
never traveled farther than Washington, D.C., embarked on the adventure
of a lifetime. This month, she graduates from the U.Va. School of
that trip, my eyes were opened to a whole part of the world I had
never seen," said Anthony, now 35. "We drove through cornfields
in Iowa and wide open spaces in the Midwest. We heard the wind tear
through Oklahoma and felt the heat in Texas. The landscape grew
brown and dry under a huge blue sky and bright sun."
trip cemented in me, deep in my bones, a desire to commit to a career
helping others," Anthony said.
earlier, as a teen, Anthony sought ways to serve, beginning with
caring for severely retarded adults, which she did for five years.
At an Easter Seal Society program in Hebron, Conn., in 1985, a Vietnam
veteran challenged her to pursue more far-reaching ways of helping
trip west instilled a desire in her to live outside Connecticut
and attend college in Arizona. Her startled parents prevailed on
her to enroll in a college closer to home, and they compromised
on Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
Carleton, Anthony studied with Paul Wellstone, then a political
science professor and now a U.S. senator, who taught such classes
as "Grassroots Movements and Protest Politics."
graduated from college in 1988 with an interdisciplinary major in
Latin American studies. Her major allowed her to study Spanish (spending
a semester in Madrid), history, politics, economics, archeology
and religion. Among her courses was one taught by the well-known
liberation theologist, Robert McAfee Brown, which examined the efforts
liberal Catholic priests were making in Latin America to hasten
social, economic and political change.
summer after college, Anthony set off alone on a three-month trip
through Central America. Traveling by plane, bus and on foot, she
visited El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, wearing
a backpack and armed with only her college Spanish and a notebook.
She was swept away in the revolutionary fervor of the times, but
learned she was better suited for other struggles.
realized there were things I could do at home," Anthony said.
Wellstones help, she landed a job as a grassroots organizer
in Billings, Mont., where she worked with a poor neighborhood on
the south side of town composed mostly of Native Americans and whites.
accomplishments from those days stand tall in Anthonys memory.
Working with Montana Peoples Action, she nurtured neighborhood
leaders for more than two years. Finally, with her encouragement,
they petitioned the city for a stoplight at Jackson Street and State
Avenue, a dangerous intersection and elementary-school crossing.
The stoplight was installed.
second accomplishment concerned another group with which she was
involved, the Billings Coalition for Human Rights. When a local
Ku Klux Klan member threw a brick through a Jewish familys
front window in December 1993, the task force, which she chaired,
printed and distributed 10,000 drawings of a menorah around the
city. People of all faiths posted the menorahs in the windows of
their homes that year in a show of solidarity that made national
working for more than a decade in the Billings area, Anthony realized
that grassroots organizing was personally satisfying and could be
effective, but it was limited in scope. She began to look for ways
to have more impact.
Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People and a history professor at the University of Virginia,
spoke in Billings at an event the human rights group sponsored,
Anthony approached him and asked about law school. He encouraged
her to pursue public-interest law at U.Va., which she did.
school hasnt been easy. Anthony has missed the wide-open spaces
of Montana and the support of a close-knit group of friends. Dyslexia
has compounded the difficulty of keeping up with a heavy reading
she has persevered. Anthony won a $15,000 Mortimer Caplin and Linda
A. Fairstein Public Service Fellowship, which provided tuition assistance
for her final year in law school and will supplement her salary
for two years after graduation, enabling her to take a low-paying
job in public-interest law.
graduation, Anthony will join the Fair Trial Initiative, a small
group of young lawyers in Chapel Hill, N.C., who are concerned that
the public defense provided to indigent defendents charged with
capital murder -- and facing the death penalty -- falls short of
what the authors of the U.S. Constitution intended.
you know that, on average, defense attorneys have only three hours
to prepare for each capital case?" Anthony asks. "That
is woefully inadequate representation."
plans to do something about it.
Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858