Monica Wolf Marvin '68 : A Passion for Politics
By LeeAnn Kriegh '94
In her senior year of high school, Monica Wolf Marvin '68 was asked to list her top three career objectives. Her response: "1) Lawyer. 2) Lawyer. 3) Lawyer."
Marvin said the dramatic social movements of the 1960s led to her interest in the law. "It was a time when freedom of speech was a big issue, when the women's movement was coming to the forefront, and the Vietnam War. I saw that as a professional advocate - as a microphone for people who didn't have a voice - I could do so much more than I could if I was in a position where I was dependant on other people making decisions that mattered to me."
Despite her early interest, it was 18 years after her high school graduation before Marvin became a lawyer - though she quickly made up for lost time. First, she established a flourishing civil practice in Northern California. Then, in 2004, Marvin entered into her current position as senior consultant and counsel to Donna Brazile.
Brazile is one of the nation's leading political strategists and the former campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 presidential bid. Marvin said she "wears a number of hats" at Brazile & Associates. In addition to reviewing contracts and conducting legal research, Marvin assists Brazile in message and communications development.
Before attending law school, Marvin married and had two children - including a daughter who eventually followed her mother's example and became an attorney. All the while, Marvin campaigned for causes like the Equal Rights Amendment and nurtured her childhood dreams.
"I just had all these passions about social justice, and I really, really thought I was going to be an ACLU attorney or something," she said. "But that's just not what happened."
In fact, she almost did not become a lawyer at all. Marvin described visiting the city courthouse on her high school career day and finding herself grouped with young women who wanted to be legal secretaries, not lawyers. "I said, 'Oh, there's been a mistake,'" she recalled with a laugh.
Eventually, she was sent to the deputy district attorney whom she remembered being "very kind, in a patronizing way." He told her if she went to law school, she would be taking the place of a male breadwinner, and she would compromise her ability to raise a family. "In other words, he told me I wasn't deserving, that I should think twice. He discouraged me," she said.
She added, "That was the message a lot of women got in the '60s. There were women who were more courageous than I, who were more confident than I, who blazed the trail for women like me, who then came back in the late '70s and were able to accomplish what our early goals had been."
Marvin earned her law degree in 1982 from Empire College School of Law, and has combined her interest in law and politics ever since. She has met political luminaries including Sen. Barack Obama, and last year she managed the successful re-election campaign for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.
In 1996, Marvin ran for office herself, finishing a close second in the Democratic primary for U.S. representative in California's First Congressional District. Though she said she will not run for political office again, Marvin said she was thankful for the opportunity to raise and discuss issues that mattered to her. "I was so concerned that our district wasn't being represented the way it needed to be," she said. "It was a wonderful experience, despite the loss."
Of her time at Pacific, Marvin said, "I really believe that I got an excellent, excellent education." She recalled taking a logic class from Faculty Emeritus and Distinguished University Professor Miles Shishido that introduced her to critical thinking and influenced her eventual decision to pursue a career in the law. She also remembered the influence of the forensics program, led by Professor H.C. "Hap" Hingston, who she said is "one of my all-time favorite people and an exemplary forensics coach."
Marvin said in the near future she looks forward to continuing to combine her interest in law and politics. "I still love the law very much and know that that's just what I was born to do."