Caminante, No Hay Camino / Pathmaker, There Is No Path

by ursavoice

Dean Victoria Ortiz

Antonio Machado (1875-1939), the great poet of the Spanish Civil War, might well have been speaking to and about those of us who, with eyes and hearts wide-open, voluntarily chose to join the founding and inaugural communities at UC Irvine’s brand-new law school, as dedicated and risk-taking pathmakers:

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar

Pathmaker, your footsteps
are the path and nothing more;
pathmaker, there is no path,
you make the path by walking.

There was not really a path ahead of us when we, founding administrators and faculty, first occupied parts of two floors in one of the buildings making up what was then called Berkeley Place. Nor did the inaugural class of 60 intrepid students have much mapped out ahead of them when they became 1Ls in August 2009. Each of us came with our own vision, our own experience, our own hopes and dreams for the future of this institution about-to-be-born.

My eyes were firmly focused on the students we would attract, those members of the community who ARE the community, without whom there would be NO community. Before there was a population of folks who might be applying, I could devise only a sketchy sort of path ahead of me, similar but not identical to that traveled by peers and colleagues at other law schools. But as I began to meet with potential applicants, locally, statewide, and indeed nationally, my stride grew firmer and more purposeful because the way ahead was becoming more and more evident to me: the energy and excitement among the applicants, and ultimately the passion and commitment among the inaugural students, echoed and reflected my own as we soon began to make the path together by walking forward side by side together.

There is something especially exhilarating about being the first: the first in your family to go to college; the first of your friends to leave home; the first members of a new campus organization; the inaugural class and the founding administrators at a brand-new law school. All of us who shared the space, physical and psychic, at UCI Law during the first academic year know how heady it so often was, thinking about what we were launching, what we were building, what we were facing, what it might become. Most of us are never privileged enough to start something from scratch. Most of us prefer the comfort of the tried and true. But then there are some of us, those who value the unknown, who have a vision of how things could be and should be, those who are willing to take a risk in order to make something better than what already exists. And that is what the students in the first and second classes at UCI Law have brought with them: the commitment and courage of 144 individual and energetic law students who want to leave their mark on an institution that only exists because they are there and who also plan to leave their individual and collective marks on the world they will enter as law school graduates, lawyers, advocates, problem solvers and, yes, still as pathmakers.

For it should be clear to all of us: in forging a path, in creating something that is organically new and forward-looking, we assume a deep responsibility to the very path we have traced. We take on the job of making sure the path we are helping to make stays on course, proceeds toward the goal we foresaw for it, takes on and supports additional pathmakers as they join the community. We become accountable not only to each other in this pathmaking enterprise, but to the enterprise itself. We are all charged with making certain that the promise of the early first steps is retained as a beacon that will light our way to a reachable destination.

So, pathmakers, walk on; there are others like you who will follow your steps as they, too, make their own paths. And don’t ever forget why you are here, why you wish to make this path, what you all believe it should lead to and achieve. Pathmakers of 2012 and 2013: you make the path!!