Supreme court justice visits AHS

Published 10:15 am Thursday, March 24, 2011

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page poses with a student after his presentation to AHS students Wednesday. -- Trey Mewes/

When Alan Page speaks, people listen.

The former Minnesota Vikings great and current Minnesota Supreme Court Justice spoke to a crowd of more than 1,200 Austin High School students in Knowlton Auditorium Wednesday, and they listened to his message of personal responsibility, the importance of education and learning to accept other cultures.

“It was amazing,” said Jordan Stevens, AHS Junior. “He inspired me. I’m not a kid who’s dedicated to school very much, but (he) made me think to myself, ‘maybe I should think about school a little bit more.’”

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Page’s presentation, sponsored by Austin’s Human Rights Commission, came after the HRC tried to get him to give several lectures on Martin Luther King Jr. Day last January. Page’s schedule wouldn’t work out, but he offered to come speak to Austin students instead. He met with several students before his schoolwide presentation Wednesday to talk about applying for scholarships under the Page Foundation, an organization Page founded with his wife in 1988 which gives students of color from underprivileged backgrounds the opportunity to go to college, while requiring students to work as educational volunteers in elementary and middle schools.

“It was very cool,” said Kirsten Lindbloom, HRC chairwoman. “Talk about an impact.”

Page, a Pro-Football Hall of Famer, the 1971 NFL Most Valuable Player and an associate justice of the state Supreme Court since 1993, has a passion for education and likes to tour schools and remind students of the things they can achieve when they strive to succeed in the classroom.

“Education is a tool that will help you solve virtually every problem, no matter what the issue,” Page said.

Page told students about his experiences growing up in Canton, Ohio in the 1950s, his college football days, his days as a pro football player and his inclination for law.

“I wanted to be a lawyer,” Page told the crowd. “Growing up at that time, the prospects for someone like me weren’t all that great. If things went really well you might get a job at the steel mill.”

Page broke racial barriers throughout his career and never stopped pursuing his dream of practicing law. He first went to William Mitchell College of Law during his rookie season, but had to drop out due to the pressures of law school.

“I wasn’t committed or focused,” Page, who graduated from the University of Notre Dame, said. “I was way in over my head.”

Page received a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1978. He worked as a lawyer for the law office of Lindquist and Vennum for several years before becoming an assistant attorney general.

Page’s message to students was simple: strive to do your best in school and in life, and you’ll be able to decide your future.

“It is important that we be persons of character,” Page told students.

He gave his views on everything from affirmative action to the NFL lockout, telling students he wouldn’t be surprised to see players and owners work out an agreement before the first preseason game is played.

“No one is losing money yet,” he said.

Yet his positive message on equality and diversity struck a chord with many of the students.

“We can learn to live together if we’re willing to put aside stereotypes,” Page said. “And stereotypes go both ways. We have to deal with our own biases, our own prejudices.”