Political passion: Law student previously worked for federal government

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Lydia Munn’s interest in politics was piqued at age 13, watching MSNBC with her father.

“He explained the political system to me in a way that made sense to the real world,” she says.” It was no longer in the abstract. I could see our government at work—or at least on television. The excitement each night was enticing. My interest grew from there.”

That passion led to her working in the nation’s capital, after earning her undergrad degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from the University of Michigan. She first moved to D.C. with an internship for a nonprofit established by the Obama administration. The office was in downtown D.C. and Munn attended meetings with the executive branch in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), next door to the White House.

“Through the internship, I got a West Wing tour and I knew I was on the right track,” she says.    

She then found full-time employment as a Development Associate through the Joint Center for Political and Economic Students, a think tank focused on policies affecting Black people. 

“That’s something that spoke directly to my consciousness,” she says. “The work was fulfilling but challenging.”

When a full-time entry-level position on Capitol Hill opened up for a Michigan Senator, Munn jumped at the opportunity. 

“I killed the interview out of 200 applicants, and I started my career in the federal government,” she says. “I was with all the people I watched on MSNBC for years. Funny enough, that was the only channel on in the Senate office all day.“At each job I met amazing people I still have relationships with to this day. Each experience built upon the last. It isn’t easy making genuine connections in very competitive environments, but I was able to thrive. My time there helped define me professionally.”

Munn saw all of the U.S. Senators and was able to speak with some.

“Many are exactly as they appear on TV,” she says. “Once, Senator Elizabeth Warren complimented me on my lei after the Hawaiian delegation had their annual Hawaii celebration—a highly anticipated event for Hill staffers with Spam, BBQ sauce, and Hawaiian rolls.”

At an event for Black staffers, Munn met all three Black senators— Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott—who spoke about their camaraderie and the importance of the staffers being there.

“I have great respect for each of them,” Munn says. “I worked the front desk of our office, so I got to see and talk to everyone that came in to meet with the Senator.

“Another time, when my family came to visit me at work for a tour of the Capitol, we had lunch in the Senate Dining Room and Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski from ‘Morning Joe’ were having lunch at the same time as Ivanka Trump, separately.”

Away from work, Munn enjoyed her leisure time in D.C.

“Brunch on Sundays is a must,” she says. “There’s a huge happy hour culture, so my friends and I spent hours tracking down free food around the city. It’s a very walkable city, so I enjoyed spending time outside. But what I enjoyed most was the Smithsonians—having access to free museums, I was never bored.”

Now a 2L student at Wayne Law, Munn has always been interested in government and how society works.

“The law is a huge part of that—it establishes these parameters that we all operate under without really even knowing what they are,” she says. “I’ve also had a passion to learn from a young age so continuing my education was always in my plans.”

While still very interested in policymaking and legislation, law school has exposed her to many opportunities within the legal career, and her current interests also include municipality and corporations.
Long term, she sees herself working at the intersection of government and private business. This past summer she interned for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, observing Zoom hearings and drafting opinions for the judge.

“I enjoyed learning about the judges,” she says. “We attended virtual luncheons where they shared their paths to the bench.”    

As vice president of the Black Law Students Association, Munn enjoys working with her executive board.

“We’ve become a family,” she says. “During my first year, BLSA members were always there to reassure me I was on the right track. BLSA helps to build confidence in Black law students, especially those that are first generation lawyers.

She has happy memories of an undergrad study aboard trip, working as an English tutor at an English-speaking university in Izmir, Turkey.

 “Visiting the Hagia Sophia is definitely at the top of my list, originally built as a Christian cathedral in 537 and converted into a mosque with the rise of the Ottoman Empire. It’s beautiful to see the visual overlap of history, with depictions of Christ amongst traditional Islamic architectural structures. To see a building that old is awe-inspiring, we don’t have that privilege in the U.S.,” she says.

A native of Detroit’s west side, Munn now lives on the east side with her mother, brother, and sister; her father passed away in 2011, and her grandmother in Arizona stays with the family during the summer months.

With African, indigenous, and European lineage, Munn notes the complexities of the nation’s history are proudly portrayed in her family’s heritage. “One of my aunts has done extensive research on the history of my family and the Allotment Era in Oklahoma where blood quantum still dictates the rights of decedents of slaves and native people,” she says.

“My father’s family is from North Carolina and we’re the descendants of indigenous people who hid in the mountains to escape the Trail of Tears. My maternal family is from Oklahoma, only having been forced there through removal. Some natives owned slaves; some former slaves joined native communities after they escaped. Both sides of my family moved to Detroit during the Great Migration in search of better paying jobs. It’s all very fascinating to me.”


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