The Miami Herald

Sticking up for the disabled

Paula Rubin now practices civil rights law.
Paula Rubin now practices civil rights law.
Paula Rubin is an attorney with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she works on behalf of people with disabilities. ''There is no amount of money and no corner office with lots of windows that beats out the satisfaction I get doing the work that I do,'' Rubin says.

Paula Rubin

1973, Speech

Coral Park

Q: What do you remember about the night you won your Silver Knight award?

A: I thought if I had a shot at winning, it'd be for runner-up. So, I took off my shoes, I unbuttoned my jacket and I popped a big ol' wad of gum in my mouth -- I was chewing in an unlady-like fashion. But as they read my profile, I hurried to get my shoes back on and button the coat and dispose of my gum. And the thing is, I thought I was home free. Unbeknownst to us, PBS was taping this and I was pretty much revealed.

Q: Tell us about your life now.

A: I love what I do. Being an attorney, speech and debate helped me develop cogent arguments. I do a lot of linear thinking. I view myself as a translator. I take complicated legal issues and translate them for nonlawyers. I work at the Department of Justice doing civil rights work. I've also been an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University since 1995. I teach disability discrimination law. And I'm a single mom with a 7-year-old son.

Q: What advice do you have for students who want to be Silver Knights?

A: It's not about whether or not you're a great debater or speaker. It's about taking that skill and using it to help other people -- that's what embodies a Silver Knight -- and that's what I do now.

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