Former U.S. solicitor general fondly remembers time at Pacific
Over 100 members of University of the Pacific's community, including former fraternity brothers and classmates, joined an hour-long talk on Nov. 11 with Theodore B. Olson '62 as part of the Pacific Alumni Association’s Leading Voices speaker series.
Olson, who served as United States solicitor general (2001–2004) under President George W. Bush, credited Pacific for helping lay the foundation for his career in practicing law.
“Pacific fostered an environment that placed an emphasis on individual liberties and opportunities,” explained Olson. “The nature of having a small campus provided me with the freedom to get involved and create those close relationships with faculty that pushed me to do more.”
While at Pacific, Olson served as editor of the Pacifican, performed in theater, hosted his own radio show, participated in ASuop and was a charter member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. However, he emphasized his time on the speech and debate team as being formative for him, crediting former Pacific professor Paul Winters, who directed the team.
“He taught us the art of persuasion,” recalled Olson. “But most importantly, he emphasized the idea of listening to other people, which is something I still utilize today.”
Selected by Time magazine in 2010 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Olson has argued 65 cases in the Supreme Court. These include the two Bush v. Gore cases arising out of the 2000 presidential election. He also worked to overturn California's same-sex marriage ban, chronicled in the documentary "The Case Against 8," and Tom Brady's post-"Deflategate" suspension. Most recently, he argued against the Trump Administration’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Olson, who studied communications and history at Pacific, spoke about the utility of a liberal arts education. Although biased, he explained that studying history and literature provides students with a different perspective which they can carry into their careers.
“To learn all of those things, I did not fully appreciate it while I was at Pacific,” said Olson. “But, I do now because I learned things that exposed me to other worlds and later in life it is important to have information on other experiences.”
Olson encouraged current Pacific students to take advantage of their time in school and get involved as much as possible.
“Take all of the opportunities you can to experience college life and learn from your peers,” advised Olson. “Pacific is a personal experience that lasts a lifetime.”
You can watch the entire discussion with Theodore B. Olson '62 below.