Friday, April 29, 2005


Last night I got back from LA and went into my office to change so I could go to a Rivercats game. My office is used for an internship class once a week. They were having all of the interns and their sponsors in to thank the sponsors and to do a sort of final event. I went back to my office and changed and then was getting ready to go and one of the students came in. His name was Will Britt. He was one of my son's best friends and he wanted to talk. Earlier in the year I had encouraged Will to consider transfering to UOP and to leave UCLA. He had been accused of sexual assault in what looked to even a casual observer as a trumped up case. That had weighed heavily on Will, who was a thoughtful, somewhat quirky kid. He eventually enrolled in UOP and from the conversations I had had with him during the semester it was beginning to be a better fit.

WC Fields once said "I've been rich and I've been poor and rich is better." I've known Will since he was a kindergartener and we've lived through happiness and sadness with Will and his family. Last night as Will was driving back to Stockton he was killed in a single car accident.

Will came into our family because his mom died when he was about to go to school - the school had a sixth grade buddy system and my daughter was asked to be Will's buddy. His older sister was Peter's buddy in the way that our daughter was Will's.

Last night was a typical conversation - he came into my office and told me about how the false charges had been (or would be) dropped. The lying coed, that had caused him so much grief for most of the last year had recanted some of her false accusations. The remaining parts of her testimony looked bogus. I asked him what he and his dad would do and we talked about whether the young lady had any culpability here (in my opinion she does) and whether UCLA's rather limited investigation into the veracity of the charges was appropriate (in my opinion they did not treat him fairly - they just did not bother to balance the rights of the accuser and the accused). Then we talked about the future - should he stay in UOP or return to UCLA. We discussed both options - in my opinion it was better to stay at UOP for a host of reasons - but we also talked about an option to go to GW law school (I did some graduate work there and we talked about that - not in the law school but what it would be like to live and study so close to the White House) and a host of other things. It was a normal conversation that you have with people you are close to;nothing exceptional and expected to be continued. As I drove to the game I thought about what kind of attorney he would be - his dad, Don, is a trial lawyer. Will and I discussed, on one visit to UOP, the things that excited him in the practice of law. He had thought a lot about the practice of law, about the elements and skills he needed to develop. He talked to me a lot about things like cross examination in ways that told me he had thought a lot about the practice of law.

Will had a mixture of a unique sense of grace, intellectual fire and clumsiness. We have the burn spot in the carpet - which I kidded him about unmercilessly - caused by teenage carelessness. We remember the attempt to create a new story of the burning bush. He and Peter, my son - thought it would be smart to buy some beer when Don was away and party for the weekend, Will's sister found it - told Don and so we had a conversation about it parents and Will and Peter - they came up with a teenage explanation where they suggested they had somehow found the beer in a local park under a bush and took it home to assure that no other child would be tempted - they actually thought we would believe that! We have the great week where Will joined our family in Oaxaca to learn Spanish - each afternoon the two boys would go off and search out the city and small bargains. By the end of the week they knew the city well. I embarassed Will when I told a shaggy dog story in the Spanish class - he got put into the slower class with us while Pete went to a higher level. Later in his life - in part because he was bored - he attempted to pick up Italian off tapes. There are more stories - among Peter's friends. Most of the boys in his class left his K-8 school at the end of 8th grade but Will stayed on and graduated from the high school. Pete and Will lost contact for a while - but in the last couple of years - they came back together and saw each other frequently when Will was in town.

When he came over - if you could engage him (sometimes he was in the teenage distance mode) - he had some really great thoughts. We talked stocks (he held AOL when it was worth holding), and economics and politics and life and rap and an odd amalgam of other topics. He could be a fierce advocate but always with that grace that never slipped away. He was a part of our household. He could do outlandish things - eat a dog biscuit or wear the sag and bags of his generation but he always came back to ideas. But he wasn't in any way odd about his thoughts. This was not a kid who was out of place in himself. This morning I watched a video that Pete had taken of them in eighth grade doing eighth grade things - rap and crude jokes.

Last fall we went to the USC game at Stanford and had an extra ticket to Will came with us. Throughout the game Will kept asking Peter if he could take our grandson Mason and go "meet some girls" - that unique sense of humor came through again. Mason and he had a special bond. We still have not figured out how to tell our grandson. Mason referred to him as "My Will."

The last year was a tough one. The allegations weighed heavily on him. I spoke with his dad and Will several times in the fall - trying to explain how colleges in general and a place like UCLA would process on charges like this and also making a couple of phone calls in his behalf. I took care to suggest a couple of alternatives where he could complete his degree. In the end UOP looked like a good match. Last night we talked about how in the last few weeks he had found some friends at UOP and had begun to get some balance back in his life. I looked forward to having some discussions this summer to hear how his developing confidence would lead him over the next year to possibly an internship in Washington or a law school.

He would have been a great lawyer.

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