It was the summer of 2003. I was interning at the U.S. Solicitor General’s office and met Ted Olson, then-Solicitor General, for the first time. As a small-town girl from Nebraska, and a rising 3L at the time, it was a big deal to be able to learn from such a prominent legal practitioner who was often referred to as the “tenth Justice” of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ted knew that I was the President of the Federalist Society chapter at the Cardozo School of Law at the time—the same chapter his late wife, Barbara Olson, had once led with great success when she too was a law student at Cardozo.
That fall, I began to plan Federalist Society events at Cardozo for the year. I invited Ted, who was still servicing as Solicitor General, to be a featured speaker. While Ted was eager to speak at Cardozo, he couldn’t fit the trip into his busy schedule. He recommended that I invite Ken Starr to speak instead. I explained to him that I did not know Ken Starr and had no other connections to him, but Ted said, “That’s o.k., I will ask him for you.” Ken graciously accepted the invitation almost immediately. I could not believe my luck!
The event featuring Ken at Cardozo was easily the best attended Federalist Society event we had that year. Ken came to talk about his new book at the time, First Among Equals. He graciously spent extra time afterwards talking to the students and signed numerous books. After the event, Ken joined some of us for dinner at a nearby restaurant where he took even more time to talk to everyone, share his stories and answer their questions. I had assumed he would be so busy with other important things that he would not have extra time for us, but he made the time. And that was only the beginning.
Little did I know, but after that evening, Ken would become not only one of my most reliable mentors, but also a family friend. I was also blessed to get to know his family and his kind and accomplished wife, Alice. Oftentimes, when he would introduce me to others, he would refer to himself as my “adopted Godfather.” His sage advice over many years, which began when I was a law student, helped me in too many ways to list in a single article. And, throughout it all, I found it remarkable that someone of Ken’s stature took the time to help me—a girl from a small Nebraska town who had few connections and certainly no fame or fortune. But this was the kind of person he was—no matter your background, politics, race, creed, or history, he wanted to help if he could. I also witnessed this when I learned about his ministry to individuals serving time in prison. Ken was a quiet warrior who helped people without seeking anything in return, to include public accolades.
Over the last 20 years, Ken watched my legal career blossom. I was not only able to accomplish what I had hoped to, but much more. He and Alice were also thrilled when I met my husband, Tom Cotton, who is currently serving in the U.S. Senate, at a Federalist Society event in 2013. Thankfully, they both approved of him.
I will miss Ken and will forever be grateful for his friendship. His contribution to the Federalist Society and dedication to its members, especially the countless law students that he helped like me, will never be forgotten. Ken leaves a legacy of kindness and mentorship, which we can all hope to emulate. If all those whom he helped on their journeys will, in turn, do the same for a new generation of students and young lawyers, we can uplift thousands. And I suspect Ken will be smiling down on us all.
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