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Mrinalini Wadhwa

Mrinalini Wadhwa: Advocating for Social Change

Mrinalini Wadhwa traveled back and forth between New York and India with her parents before settling in New Delhi to attend the American Embassy School. As a junior, she debates through the Model United Nations program, leads her school’s Amnesty International youth group, and serves as president of an organization that teaches English to over a hundred local underprivileged students. Her experiences influenced her interest in law and have shaped her into a leader who strives for equal opportunity for all.

What interests you the most about law?

What I love the most about the study of law – and constitutional law in particular – is the unique framework it offers us to make sense of the world. It is a framework based on fundamental principles: the basic rights and freedoms of the human being. To develop and conceptualize this framework, we can use reason, creativity, and empathy. Reason, in a legal argument, leads us to the most logical extension of these fundamental principles, bringing clarity to otherwise complex or emotionally charged situations. Creativity tests the strength of our reason, inviting us to consider the implications of what we have reasoned to be a fair outcome in a court case against hypothetical situations. This leads to empathy. We may never be in a situation where a law prevents us personally from practicing our beliefs, or exercising our rights; yet, in the study of law, we have to consider these situations, and understand and obviate injustices that we may never experience ourselves. Thus, law marries empathy with reason, and creativity with logic, to create a framework powerful enough to apply to any situation, and any perceived injustice.

Which course did you take?

I took a course in Constitutional Law this summer. We read different U.S. Supreme Court cases and legal articles on constitutional issues, such as freedom of expression and voting rights. We also wrote three legal analysis essays, where we were given a scenario with a plaintiff and a defendant reflecting one of the constitutional law debates we had studied in class. We would reason who we believed should win the case and why based on the previous court cases and principles we had looked at. Nearing the end of the program, we participated in a moot court, where we re-litigated a 2016 Supreme Court case on abortion rights.

"Studying how law has historically catalyzed reforms was powerful."

What were your most memorable takeaways from the program?

Studying how law has historically catalyzed reforms was powerful. It taught me that common principles a nation shares, when being applied fairly, rationally, and strategically, can effect as much—if not more—change as any widespread message or sweeping policy. Moreover, I saw how we can always use these common principles to test whether a message or policy truly speaks to our national character. What I recall best from my time in the program is the power of the dissenting voice, of those who stand up for our shared principles when they are being disregarded and twisted—even if it means that they stand alone. From the legacies of such individuals, I saw the importance of the individual’s role is to stand up for their principles, regardless of whether or not they are successful in their individual battles; their dissent allows society to come closer to winning the larger wars for justice and equality.

What’s next for you?

I look forward to serving as an advocate on the International Court of Justice in a Model United Nations conference in a few months. I am also working on a project to establish a library in a very poor community near our school where many of our English students live. Perhaps seven or eight years from now, I hope to be studying constitutional and human rights law in graduate school and work as a civil rights lawyer someday. In the more immediate future, I would like to make the most of my remaining time in New Delhi before graduating high school and moving back to the United States.