Challenges and opportunities in the law.

AuthorDalton, Jane

Thank you, Professor See, for that kind introduction. It is truly an honor to be here this evening to spend some time with so many young, energetic law students who are anticipating embarking on a career in the law. I understand we also have a number of mentors here, recent graduates of the law school who have already embarked on careers in the law, and I'm honored to be able to spend some time this evening with you as well.

It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world--those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't. Well, I must be the former kind. Because I think there are two kinds of people in the world--there are those who look at a situation, see a problem and are daunted by it. And there are those who look at a situation, sec a challenge and find an opportunity in it. In the Navy, we call that a "chance to excel." You know you're going to have an interesting day when your boss calls you in first thing in the morning and says "I have a real chance for you to excel today!"

And I must honestly say that I've had my share of challenges and opportunities in 26 years in the US Navy. These opportunities have arisen in two ways--first, changes in the law have opened unexpected doors for me as a woman in the Navy, and second, unexpected events have provided opportunities to influence and shape the law. I will take just a few minutes this evening to share some of those challenges with you--in hopes that you, too, will find equal challenges and opportunities to excel that will lead to an exciting, fascinating and rewarding career of service in the law.

Since I'm speaking to law students, it's imperative that I cite at least some law. So we will begin at the beginning--with the Constitution of the United States. Article I, Section 8 provides that the Congress shall have the power to provide and maintain a Navy and to make rules for the government and regulation of the naval forces. Thus it was that in 1948, Congress saw fit, in Title 10 Section 6015, to bar women from sea duty--we could not be assigned to duty on navy vessels, other than hospital ships or transports. This legislation was not at the Navy's behest, by the way. It was a Congressional initiative.

However, when I joined the Navy in July of 1977, the stage had been set for big changes. At that time, there were still tremendous differences in how men and women were treated. One the one hand, there were the big differences--that women could not be assigned to sea duty. The issue was not just that we couldn't serve at sea, but that we were unable to obtain the experience at the tactical and operational levels to permit us to compete for the best jobs at the higher, strategic levels. For example, there is no law that says the Chief of Naval Operations must be a man. Admiral Vern Clark, our current Chief of Naval Operations, however, has spent many, many years on sea duty. There is no way that a woman who has served only ashore, or only on non-combatant vessels, would be able to gain the expertise and the confidence of the senior leadership to enable her to compete successfully for the position of Chief of Naval Operations.

There were also other minor differences: women were not...

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