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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Farewell to Ghana

Elliott Dionisio; Accra, Ghana.

Now just one week before departing Ghana and concluding my summer serving global justice, my perspectives have shifted somewhat.  Initial pangs of sympathy and despondency for some poor Ghanaians' dispositions have hardened to a more realistic 'that's life' outlook.  Having learned more about the state of Ghana's infrastructure and political climate, I can appreciate that a greater inflow of tax dollars would indeed benefit their society, but most Ghanaians would rather cling to the money to use for themselves and their families.  And what at first seemed like a slow, inefficient court system has revealed itself to me as just the way Ghana's judicial system works; and if it's working, why fix it?

This isn't to say that efforts made to improve the way of life in Ghana, from the myriad angles improvements can come, are hopeless or unwelcome.  Rather they find resistance in established norms, and I believe to a larger degree, lack of education.  I'm no political theorist, but once a populace is convinced it can achieve and is motivated to seek change for itself, leaders are more likely to latch onto that impetus.  The education problem lies in the absence of a belief of the feasibility of such changes and the reality that many Ghanaians are living pointedly to subsist, and so simply do not have the time to learn the dynamics of social change. I assume Ghana's more sophisticated leaders know this as well, but still suffer from the aforementioned resistance.

These large-scale observations are more or less out of the scope of Pepperdine and the Global Justice Program's goals; their focus is on ushering their students toward meaningful work helping the less fortunate in a legal capacity.  Posting students in court chambers has great potential to accomplish this; even after the first year of law school, I surely have enough skills to conduct research, write comprehensive advisory opinions, and offer my own thoughts on how to reform outdated processes.  It's funny—just being a young professional in America, I feel I've matured with an acute sense of how to systemize work.  Armed additionally with a familiarity of how a common law legal system works is enough to effect real, long-lasting change in Ghana and other developing countries.

My largest regret about my time here follows from this thought; I wish I had heeded more the warnings that work may not be given unless asked.  The supercharged-ambition of America exists in a much more leisurely degree here.  I detected this early and eventually settled into a commute/work/relaxation routine, and I didn't avail myself to several opportunities to be involved in the court that surely exist but went unmentioned by my judge.  However, I was gratified by knowing my justice consistently made sure I was at least occupied during the workday.

Conversely, my largest success had been my observations of Ghanaian culture against America's.  These observations have changed my worldview and my perspective, forever.  I'm unsure how, but surely anticipate, the ways I will view America differently when I return.  Will I treat people differently?  Will I change the course of my professional goals?  Or will these experiences remain knitted to my memory without showing any clear manifestation (I hope not).  Whatever is the result, Ghana can proudly know that it has changed my life for the better.

At the end of my time serving my justice, Honorable Justice Ms. Rose C. Owusu, I will have completed case briefs, one advisory opinion on a constitutional case, and had daily discussions with her about my research of Ghanaian law.  Undoubtedly I could have done more, and my and Brian's insights of how to direct Pepperdine's Ghana program will certainly set the stage for more fulfilling student experiences in the future.  Now, however, I rest assured knowing Pepperdine has established a presence in Ghana and Brian and I have made a positive impression on the Judicial Service (the 'employer' of the legal staff).  Ghana will fit nicely, and hopefully consistently, into the lineup of Global Justice Program locations.