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Students discuss how to improve student life in business casual attire in Penn museum Credit: Jing Ran , Jing Ran, Jing Ran

The former first lady of Pennsylvania and a Penn alumna discussed everything from her law career to the Occupy movement in an intimate question-and-answer session with approximately 30 students Tuesday.

The Women in Leadership Series, in conjunction with Civic House, hosted 1969 College graduate Marjorie Rendell, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and member of the Board of Overseers for the School of Nursing.

“Who am I? I am a judge, and my role is to apply the law,” she told her audience, in response to whether she believes any recent laws should be overturned.

Alongside her career in law, Rendell has worked with philanthropic organizations highlighting the importance of civic education in elementary schools, when children are in the process of developing their sense of self.

Values such as responsibility and respect instilled at a young age can dramatically influence a child’s behavior in the future — when civic duty should gain importance, as it is necessary to uphold a democracy.

Whether we realize it or not, “we live by our constitution,” she said. “We need to have a better understanding of it in order to value what we have.” She added that a greater sense of civic duty will translate into higher voter turnouts, a hallmark of a democracy.

“The Occupy movement is a sign of intense frustration, a response to the government’s insensitivity to the plight of normal people,” she said, adding that it is a response to the increasing economic gap between the rich and the poor.

She cited education as the best solution to combat the disappearance of the middle class. Investment in education will level the playing field, she said, providing everyone with equal opportunities and producing the best workers for the economy.

“It is not the lack of jobs that increases unemployment, but the lack of skilled workers that prevents employers from hiring more people.” She believes that the United States is capable of providing the best education a child can get if “dollars being wasted elsewhere are invested in education.”

Rendell practiced law in the private sector for 20 years, after which she turned to public service, where she had the unique opportunity of working with “pure law instead of using it to further clients’ interests.” She had always wanted to be a judge, she explained.

College senior and member of Women in Leadership Series Lauren Haber was satisfied with the event. “I really liked how she turned students’ questions around on them,” she said. It was a great way to engage the audience.”

Rendell was chosen because she is “a good connection between the Civic House and WILS,” said Wharton junior and board member of Civic House Athena Burkett, who was also pleased with the audiences’ questions as well as the turnout.

This article was updated from a previous version to correct the spelling of ‘Lauren Haber’ from ‘Lauren Harber.’

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