If Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein ever tires of his position on the state’s highest court, he could command an astoundingly successful career as a motivational speaker. It’s not just Bernstein’s triumphs over adversity that he’s accomplished in his 40 years — blind since he was born Nov. 9, 1974 and catastrophically injured in a cyclist-pedestrian accident in 2012 are two of his more notable challenges — but the absolute passion and energy with which he greets life and shares his ideas with others, that make him so remarkable.
Bernstein recently visited the Lansing and Auburn Hills, Michigan, campuses of WMU-Cooley Law School to share his thoughts with students, faculty, and staff on triumphing over adversity. As the most recently elected justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, and the first blind justice to ever serve on the court, Bernstein regaled packed houses with tales of his campaign for the state’s highest court, learning his way around his new job, and career legal battles and victories he’s accumulated during his years of practicing law.
Whether it’s in the legal arena or personally, Bernstein doesn’t just cope with challenges, he confronts them head on with humor, faith, and perseverance. Among his career victories, he’s justifiably proud of the case where his victory established access guidelines now used by commercial facilities across the country. In the more personal realm, he was determined not to be beaten by injury after a speeding bicyclist crashed into him at 35 mph, breaking his pelvis and hip and knocking out a few teeth.
The 10 weeks Bernstein spent in the hospital following the accident in New York’s Central Park might have sent many a person into a tailspin. Not Bernstein. Instead, the experience inspired him to leap back into another love of his, long-distance running and sign up for his 18th marathon in New York City.
“The pain was going to be so intense that my goal was just to finish, ” Bernstein said. “It was the idea of adapting to your new body, fighting pain, challenging pain, but most importantly, never letting the pain get the better of you,” said Bernstein. “Every one of us has an internal struggle that exists within our own souls, our own spirits, and our own bodies. You come to find that when it gets to be the most severe, the most intense, you come to realize that that’s where you tend to find your peace.”
Watch the entire presentation:
Watch the Q&A session: