Campus & Community

Making of a president begins early

3 min read

HLS grad Jay Munir started his political career in the fifth grade

Jay Munir

When Jay Munir became president of the Law School Council (LSC) last March, no one could say he lacked experience. The 24-year-old’s political career first got off the ground when he was elected president of the student government – in the fifth grade. Oh, and at Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, Mich., he was freshman class president, sophomore class president, junior class vice president, and, senior year, president of the student body.

The only place he didn’t hold office was Yale, where he got his B.A. in political science in 1998. “I needed a break,” he says. OK, if you can call being editor of the Yale Herald a break.

“I’ve always wanted to get involved in building community and addressing the concerns that students have about their experiences,” he says. “Being the son of immigrants” – his parents came here from Pakistan before he was born – “the most important thing to me is being American. I’m very patriotic. And that has driven my desire to give back to the communities I’ve lived in.”

In the three years he has been involved with the LSC, the group has made significant strides – though Munir is quick to point out that the work has been a collaborative effort. This year, members finished up extensive renovations of Harkness Commons and saw administrators approve four parts of a five-part academic plan designed to enhance the quality of life for students. The concerns successfully addressed were smaller class size, better advising, more academic feedback, and easier registration; only grade reform was rejected. “These are the issues that are the most revolutionary for Harvard,” says Munir, “and that will most affect the way it will educate students in the next century.”

And what does Munir have planned for his own future? In September he will begin a year of litigation work at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C.; following that he’ll spend a year in Miami clerking for a federal judge. He says he wanted to get a taste of life in both the private and public sectors, though it seems clear which way his heart is leading him.

“I want to do something where I feel like I’m serving the country and giving back for all the opportunities my American citizenship has given me,” he says. “I think it’s important for a wider spectrum of people to get involved in government services, because there are a lot of people who aren’t currently represented in the political process but need to be. I don’t really see myself as a symbol of that, but cumulatively, if more people get involved, it will make a difference.”

Like many parents living in the United States, Jay Munir’s mother and father probably told him that one day he could grow up to be president. Unlike most children, however, Munir seems to have taken them seriously.