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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David talks to a group of students in Wayne High School’s New Tech Academy class Wednesday. His advice in a nutshell: “You are 100 percent of the future.”

Indiana justice comes home

City native among 3 from high court to visit 2 local schools

The students looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, dressed in zany, colorful garb and sporting wild hairdos for Homecoming Week, but they were an attentive and rapt audience for a visiting Indiana Supreme Court justice Wednesday.

Justice Steven David, along with his law clerk, Jon Rogers, and Chief Justice Brent Dickson and Justice Mark Massa are traveling around the state this week visiting schools in honor of Constitution Day. The U.S. Constitution was signed 225 years ago on Sept. 17, 1787.

Those who have become U.S. citizens are also recognized on Constitution Day.

The first stop for David and Rogers was the New Tech Academy in Wayne High School, followed by a similar stop to talk to students at Northcrest Elementary.

Students at the two Fort Wayne schools were rewarded with the visit after being one of 10 schools chosen as winners in a statewide essay contest.

In their winning entry, New Tech students invited a justice to help them debate Anti-Federalist Papers 78-79, a landmark decision in 1878 and 1879 detailing the power of the judiciary and the limitations of that power. And David did just that, after explaining the Indiana judicial system and telling students about his background.

David, who was born in Fort Wayne and requested the Summit City visit, moved with his family as a child to southern Indiana and now lives in Boone County.

David knew from a young age that he wanted to be a lawyer and “help people,” he said. Later, while practicing law, he decided to run for judge. He won, and after serving 16 years as a judge, he decided to apply to the Indiana Supreme Court.

David said he had never had a lot of self-confidence, and while waiting with his peers and fellow applicants he said he “just didn’t want to be the first one to be cut,” drawing empathetic laughter from the students.

“I didn’t grow much after sixth grade and was one of the first two cut during basketball tryouts,” he told students Wednesday.

But two years ago David was chosen and became the 106th justice appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court.

He urged the students to become whatever they wanted to be and not to be discouraged by failures.

“Have a plan, but be flexible,” he said. “And in any job you do, do your best. You never know where opportunity lies; you never know where a task that you don’t want to do, but do well anyway, will take you.”

David was in the Army National Guard 28 years. He was deployed once in 2003 to Iraq and again in 2007 to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He still carries a small flag in his wallet that he carried with him every day in Iraq, he said. He also wears a silicone wristband that says “Rule of Law.”

David was passionate about explaining the “government of the people, by the people, for the people” and said he was honored to be talking with the students.

“You are 100 percent of the future,” he said pointing to individual students in the classroom. “That’s how important you are.”