Ninth Interview – October 15, 2010
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the Historical
Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is James J. Sandman. The
interviewer is Paras N. Shah. The interview is taking place at Mr. Sandman’s office at 1200 First
Street, N.E., Washington, D.C., on October 15, 2010, beginning at 8:30 in the morning. This is
our ninth interview session.
MR. SHAH: Jim, I just want to pick up with one more case. This is a 2007 case that
you worked on while you were still with Arnold & Porter, Wilkins v.
Ferguson, and you were on brief for the Domestic Violence Legal
Empowerment and Appeals Project. Can you talk about your involvement
with that case?
MR. SANDMAN: Yes. The case had been handled in the D.C. Superior Court pro bono by
another law firm that wasn’t able to handle the appeal. The case came to
Arnold & Porter through our pro bono program, and I volunteered for it. I
thought the issue would be interesting, and I thought it would be fun to
work on a case at the appellate level, and there were several other lawyers
in the firm who were interested in working on it too. The issue was
interesting. It was a very specific question of statutory interpretation in a
domestic violence situation. It was critically important to the client and
the legal issue was fascinating. It was a lawyers’ issue. It’s not something
that most non-lawyers would be able to grasp easily. It was a great
The thing that I remember most about it was the quality of the oral
argument. My colleague, Matt Eisenstein, did the oral argument. The
judges were extraordinarily well-prepared. All three of them asked
excellent questions, and particularly Judge Reid, who ended up writing the
opinion, was so familiar with the record—and it was a complicated
record—that I was just dazzled. And our client was there in the
courtroom. It made such an impression on her to see that the judges
understood her case and were completely on top of the facts. This is the
way the judicial system should work. It was confidence inspiring. She
walked out of the courtroom not knowing whether she’d won or lost, but
certain that the judges had understood what her case was about and
devoted a lot of time to it. It was terrific, and the decision came out very,
very quickly. It was argued in June, and we got the decision in July—a
very comprehensive opinion that Judge Reid wrote. I think she had taken
significant personal interest in the case—and I say that just based on the
depth of her questioning and argument—and followed-up very quickly.
MR. SHAH: Can you talk about just briefly the factual background of the case and the
legal issue that was involved?
MR. SANDMAN: I’d have to refresh my recollection on that.
MR. SHAH: You said your colleague did the oral argument. Did you help prepare him
for it?
MR. SANDMAN: Oh, yes. We moot-courted him. We talked extensively about the
argument, and we talked a lot during the briefing about what arguments to
emphasize, and we worked closely with our co-counsel, who was in clinic
at G.W. law school.
MR. SHAH: And also on the panel with Judge Reid were Judges Kramer and Nebeker.
MR. SHAH: Do you recall anything in particular about their questioning from the
MR. SANDMAN: They were all active. Judge Nebeker probably asked fewer questions than
Judges Kramer and Reid, but they were all very active. But I particularly
remember Judge Reid. She presided, and, from the beginning, she asked
questions that made it obvious that she had spent a lot of time preparing
for the case. And it was a long argument. It was half an hour a side. It
was an hour. That’s a lot.
MR. SHAH: During our last interview session, we began talking about your time here
in general counsel’s office and your working relationship with Chancellor
Rhee, and you mentioned generally that some interesting issues have come
up during your time here. Are there any issues in particular that you
would like to talk about?
MR. SANDMAN: I’ve been involved in everything that’s happened here since I arrived.
When I came here in December of 2007, the Chancellor had just
announced a tentative plan to close what ended up being twenty-three
schools. I can’t remember what the initial number was. That created a
firestorm. People do not like to have their neighborhood school closed. It
doesn’t matter how under-utilized it is or what the business argument is
for excess capacity. A neighborhood school is a symbol. It carries a lot of
history with it. It’s a point of neighborhood identity. And people want a
school that is convenient. They don’t want their children to have to travel
any farther than absolutely necessary.
People complained a lot about the process. They thought that
before the Chancellor announced a tentative plan to close particular
schools, she should have sought extensive community input and should
not have even proposed any schools without having sought that input first.
Her view, which I agree strongly with, was that process would go on
forever—no one would ever agree that their neighborhood school should
be closed—and that it was better to put a concrete proposal out there for
people to react to than to have an unfocused general discussion on the
sensitive topic of school closing
s. There were a number of legal issues about how you go about
school closings and what kinds of hearings are necessary, so I walked
right into that.
I have been involved in the negotiations for a new teachers’
contract with the Washington Teachers Union. Eventually, the parent
organization, the American Federation of Teachers, and its President,
Randy Weingarten, became involved in those negotiations. That contract
is viewed as groundbreaking. Others are beginning to follow it, but the
ideas that are reflected in that contract had their origins here, and that
contract was almost three years in the making. The negotiations were
handled by the principals—by the President of the Washington Teachers
Union, by Michelle, by Kaya Henderson, and by Jason Kamros here. This
was not a lawyers’ negotiation. The parties felt strongly that it shouldn’t
be, that this was about education, and that they would make more progress
talking directly with each other than they would through lawyers. I
participated as a counselor. Most of my advice I gave behind the scenes,
directly to my client, but I did sometime have occasion to participate
myself in the negotiating sessions.
I’ve been involved in reductions in force, in terminations of
teachers for evaluation reasons. Many of the issues have been human
resources issues, labor and employment issues. Chancellor Rhee’s view is
that the teacher in the classroom has the single greatest impact on the
quality of the education that the student receives, and she thought it was
important to do everything we could to attract and retain top-quality
teachers and to move out teachers who weren’t performing at the level that
parents in the community should expect of them.
So all of the signature issues and projects that Chancellor Rhee has
received so much attention for are things that I have been involved in, and
it’s been fascinating. Fascinating.
MR. SHAH: Can you walk us through how these issues are attacked from your office.
For example, the reductions in force—how does your office operate? Do
you work in a team with other lawyers in the building?
MR. SANDMAN: It depends on the issue. On the really big issues, I personally have
handled them with assistance from other lawyers in our office here. But
things usually start in the Chancellor’s management team. I’m a member
of the management team. A group is composed of what they call the
“chiefs” here. Each department within the central office of DCPS is
headed by a chief, for example the Chief Operating Officer or the Chief of
Data and Accountability, and we talk about initiatives there. I have a seat
at the table during the developmental stage, so I have an opportunity to
provide early legal input and understand what our clients are trying to
accomplish from the start, which makes it much easier to provide effective
legal advice.
The implementation of various initiatives is handled by many
lawyers in addition to myself. For example, when we have a reduction in
force or when we terminate someone’s employment, almost invariably we
get a claim of one kind or another—either a grievance filed under a
collective bargaining agreement or an administrative appeal file within the
D.C. government—and those are all handled by other lawyers in our
office. And we have a lot of institutional knowledge collected among our
lawyers here, so if it’s something like school closings and the applicable
regulations, I’ve gotten a lot of very important and useful and help from
people here who are familiar with the regulations governing those things.
MR. SHAH: Is there an issue that you worked that you’re the most proud of? And is
there an issue that you found the most difficult to tackle?
MR. SANDMAN: I can’t single out any particular issue that I personally am most proud of.
I’m proud of the team that I’ve been a part of under Chancellor Rhee, and
I’ve found it enormously gratifying to be able to play a role in helping
them do what they do. I’m just the service provider here. I am a
facilitator. I try to help them get to where they are trying to go in a way
that complies with the law.
The issues have been fascinating. Many of them were entirely new
to me. I didn’t have any prior practice experience in labor law, meaning
labor management law dealing with unions. I did have prior experience
with employment law, but not in the unionized context. So, I had to learn
a lot, but I found that your basic lawyering skills are transferable and you
can pick up an area pretty quickly. What clients in an environment like
this need are problem-solving skills and judgment? Just general
experience helps. I had a pretty broad experience in practice before I
came here. I had practiced in a number of different fields, and that helped
me overcome my discomfort with the unfamiliar. And I’d have to say that
I’ve found the work here as intellectually stimulating and challenging as
anything I did in private practice.
MR. SHAH: Can you describe your office’s involvement in actual litigation against the
public schools?
MR. SANDMAN: Yes. We don’t handle litigation in this office. The D.C. government
handles litigation in the same way that the federal government does: the
Office of the Attorney General, like the U.S. Department of Justice,
represents the District in court. The lawyers from the Attorney General’s
office who litigate on our behalf regard me as the client in the same way a
lawyer in private practice would regard the general counsel of a client
company as the client. I’m the client representative. I’m not the ultimate
client, but I’m the person that they deal with DCPS through. So, I’ve been
a part of the team defending cases. I go to court, but I go to court as a
spectator, or sometimes I’ll sit at counsel’s table, but I’m not the one
standing up and making the case for the District of Columbia.
I’ve established some wonderful working relationships with
lawyers in the Attorney General’s office, particularly Bob Utiger, who
represents us in all of our most challenging cases. He’s an excellent
lawyer, a very quick study, and I’ve found it a pleasure to work with him.
We do handle administrative litigation here. In employment cases,
for example, there’s a process under D.C. law where terminated
employees can appeal to the Office of Employee Appeals, and we handle
those. We handle administrative claims that are made under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which is the federal statute
that applies to special education. There’s a hearing process established by
the statute where independent hearing officers decide complaint claims
that are brought by parents alleging that students are not getting the
services that they’re entitled to. Most of the lawyers in our office, the
biggest group, ten, are involved in that practice. It is a trial practice, but in
an administrative setting.
MR. SHAH: And for the non-administrative litigation, what is it like being the client
representative, and being at counsel’s table but not speaking—was it a
hard transition to be more of an observer than a litigator?
MR. SANDMAN: Yes, sometimes I want to jump up and shout (laughter). It’s taught me a
lot about the importance of good communication in the attorney-client
relationship. I need to be kept informed, and I need to be a full participant
in the preparation of the case strategy because by the time something gets
to court, I’ve been involved in the matter up until then. I know the history,
and I thought through the legal issues. If I did my job right, I saw what
the risks were, and I’ve anticipated the claims that might be brought, and I
have answers to them, and I satisfied myself that we were complying with
the law. So, I have a communication challenge in making sure that I pass
that on to the lawyers who are going to be representing us in court that
they need to reciprocate and be sure that I have an opportunity to review
briefs before they’re filed and participate in preparing them for hearings.
We have had for some time—long, long before I got here—a few
significant class actions in the special education field. The best known is
called the Blackman Jones case—it’s actually two cases that were
consolidated—filed in 1997 and has been before Judge Paul Friedman in
the U.S. District Court. Since the case was filed, and because there was so
much history to that case before I got here, I have been very comfortable
with lawyers from the Attorney General’s office just taking the lead in
those cases. There is a consent decree in the Blackman Jones case that I
work very closely with our Office of Special Education on ensuring that
we are compliant with it, but the compliance function is really centered in
the Office of Special Education, since they’re the ones who are in the
position to actually implement what the consent decree requires. We
concluded that rather than having lawyers trying to oversee the
implementation, it would be better to have that done directly by the people
who are in a position to make things happen and to deliver services to
students and comply with the procedures that the consent decree requires.
MR. SHAH: Have you been able to attend hearings for the case?
MR. SANDMAN: Oh, yes.
MR. SHAH: What have the hearings, and Judge Friedman, been like?
MR. SANDMAN: They’ve been very interesting. Usually, the court events are status
hearings. It’s been unusual in my time here to actually have motions
argued. But the status hearings can go on for three hours—maybe longer
sometimes. The Chancellor has attended virtually all of them. The State
Superintendent of Education has attended virtually all of them. There has
been testimony at some of them. The Chancellor has testified, the Deputy
Chancellor for Special Education has testified, and the Assistant
Superintendent for Special Education has testified.
Judge Friedman knows the case cold. He knows the consent
decree cold. He’s been very impressive in his display of his understanding
of the details of the case, and he’s held our feet to the fire, as he should.
He conveys a personal interest in the case, and he’s very aware of the
consequences of the case on the educational experience of individual
students. He doesn’t view the case in an abstract way. He’s focused on
what the case means for kids. He has said that he has seen more
progress—far more progress—in the last three years than he had in the
case at any point in the case’s history previously, and I think that’s
attributable to the attention and focus that Chancellor Rhee and the Deputy
Superintendent Nyankori have brought to the case.
MR. SHAH: Can you talk about how taking this job has impacted the rest of your life—
your life outside of work, your family life, and life in the community?
MR. SANDMAN: My wife would tell you that I’m significantly more relaxed. I like what I
do here. There’s a lot of pressure, and the work is very unpredictable. I
constantly find myself facing crises that I couldn’t have anticipated. My
day is often driven by e-mail, or by being summoned upstairs to the
Chancellor’s office or to the office of one of the chiefs to deal with a
problem, but I’ve liked that and haven’t found that stressful. I put in a day
that’s as long as the day that I put in in private practice, but I tend to have
my weekends to myself. I’m always on my Blackberry. The culture here
is that you’re available twenty-four/seven, and I constantly monitor my email
to see what’s up over a weekend, and I’m available as needed. I do
work on the weekends, but I don’t have to do nearly as much as I used to.
And not having to bill hours and not having to be conscious of how
many hours I billed so far this week and whether I need to put in some
more makes a huge psychological difference. You hear that over and over
again from people who leave private practice and go into the government
or go into in-house corporate settings. One of the first things they’ll tell
you is how wonderful it is not to have to be concerned about the billable
hour. It’s absolutely true and you don’t understand how significant the
difference is until you’ve experienced it.
I guess also my family understands what I do a little better than
they used to (laughter). My son is always asking me, “What was the issue
of the day today” because usually when I come home, I’m able to describe
some issue that came up. But they’ll understand because they’ve both
been to school and they read the media coverage of what’s going on
here—there’s been an awful lot of attention focused on what we’ve been
doing here for the past three years—so it’s not as abstract and unfamiliar
as the kind of law that you practice in a corporate environment in a big
law firm, and that’s been fun. My son will ask me—he’ll initiate the
conversation—“What was the issue of the day,” so it’s not something that
I’m imposing on them.
I guess that I’ve mellowed a lot, too. Maybe it’s age. But when a
problem comes up and other people might be in a tizzy about it, my
reaction usually is, “I’ve seen worse than that. I’ve seen harder than that”
(laughter). I don’t ever feel overwhelmed that I’m confronting some
situation that’s just impossible to deal with.
And I guess something else is affected—I just love my clients here.
I work with very smart and passionate people who are not money driven.
I admire them, and that gets you a lot of psychic satisfaction. As a lawyer,
you are not your client. You take your clients as you find them, and you
find some clients more satisfying than others on a personal level, and I just
have really come to appreciate the character of the clients that I serve here.
Part of it just the closeness of the working relationship, being in-house. I
live with these people in a way that I didn’t with my clients when I was in
private practice. I’m involved in so much of what they do that the
working relationship has been conducive to the development of good
personal relationships. And I think that my appreciation for my clients has
affected how I view my job and probably has a significant impact on how
my family perceives me in my job. I have better work-life balance than I
did before. There’s no question about that.
MR. SHAH: Since our last meeting, a lot has happened in D.C. with the mayoral
primary and the changes here at the public schools. Do you want to talk
about that a little bit?
MR. SANDMAN: Yes. I knew when Mayor Fenty lost in the primary that it was virtually
certain that Michelle would move on. She had Mayor Fenty’s complete
backing and he gave her the freedom to do what she wanted to do. She
never had any interest in a career as a school chancellor or superintendent.
She had to be persuaded to take the job here, and she told the Mayor
before she took the job that she could only do it if he gave her the latitude
to do what she thought needed to be done and if he backed her up
completely. He said that he would, and he was completely true to his
It would just be hard to imagine that she could have that kind of
working relationship with any other person, so I had assumed that if the
Mayor lost the primary that that would mean that Michelle would be
moving on, although she never said a word about that before the election.
She was absolutely convinced that he was going to win. After the
election, the question just became how quickly would she move on. I
could tell that it was going to be before the new Mayor was inaugurated in
January, but I didn’t know it would be as quickly as it’s turned out to be.
But I can understand completely why she decided to move on.
Michelle likes to say that she operates at one speed—she doesn’t tell you
what speed that is, but it’s about a hundred miles an hour—and with the
uncertainty of a new administration, I just think she saw something of a –
it’s an overstatement to say a wall in front of her, but she had to slow
down, and she views the state of the school system here as in crisis and as
requiring emergency treatment, and you just really can’t slow down in
pursuit of what she thinks needs to be done to turn things around here.
I’m personally very sad to see her go. I think she’s remarkable. I
came here because of her and she has never disappointed me. She is
completely committed to the best interests of the kids. Everybody says
that, she says that, and people get cynical about it and they think it’s just
words, but I’ve just seen time and time again that she has made decisions
based on that and that her actions are completely consistent with her
words. She’s just a hugely talented person. I just learned a great amount
from observing her.
The good news is that her interim replacement, Kaya Henderson, is
also terrific. They’re different personalities, but they share the same
commitment to education reform. They came here together. They
previously worked together at the New Teacher Project, which Michelle
had founded. I’ve worked very closely with Kaya over the last three
years, and I think very, very highly of her. She’s extremely smart. I
always tell her that she’s a great lawyer, and we joke about starting a law
firm together. She’s not a lawyer, but she could be. She has a wonderful
legal mind. She’s right with you as a lawyer when you’re talking through
a problem, and she just has a very clear head and a very analytical mind.
We almost always agree with each other. We can almost complete each
other’s sentences. But the thing that I admire most about her is her
character. She is rock solid in her integrity, and when I talk about
admiring and liking my clients, Kaya is a great example of that. She’s just
somebody I can feel really, really good about, and so I’m glad to see that
she’s going to be continuing at least until the end of this school year.
MR. SHAH: Jim, can you catch us up to the present on your non-work life— what your
kids and wife are up to and things of that nature?
MR. SANDMAN: My wife is heading a solar environmental non-profit called Friends of
Rock Creek’s Environment (FORCE). She became their first Executive
Director around the time that I started here in the fall of 2007. The
organization is devoted to the protection and improvement of the
environment in the Rock Creek watershed, and it’s been a great position
for her, combining her legal background with her environmental
background. It’s environmentalism at the local level. This is literally
where we live. It’s been somewhat frustrating for her though. Until very
recently, she was the only employee, and as Executive Director she had to
do absolutely everything, and that’s often involved spending time on
things that really aren’t her strengths, things like website design and
formatting the annual report. She spends a lot of time just dealing with
computer problems (laughter), but that kind of goes with the territory for
an organization at that point in its development.
Our son, Joe is a junior at the University of Michigan now. This
year he started in their public policy school. The public policy school is
principally a graduate school, but they do admit fifty Michigan
undergraduates every year as juniors. He’ll get a Bachelor of Arts in
Public Policy. He graduates from there in 2012. And he just loves it
there. He is deliriously happy. He went back to school this fall about ten
days early because he couldn’t wait to get back. His birthday is this
Sunday, and I sent him yesterday, at his request for a birthday present, a
University of Michigan flag to hang from the front porch of the house that
he shares with some friends. It’s just been a great experience. The thing
you worry about in sending a kid to a place like Michigan is the size of the
place. You worry that he’s going to get lost. Michigan somehow does a
great job of making sure that every student finds a home—a small home—
within the University. For him it’s been College Democrats. The
University of Michigan has the largest chapter of College Democrats in
the country. He got involved with them in his freshman year and that’s
really been the focus of his extracurricular life since.
Our daughter started last month at Mount Holyoke, which is where
Beth went to college, and she also is very happy there. She loves her
courses. She thinks every teacher she has is terrific, and that’s the first
time in her life that she’s been able to say that. She feels a little nerdy for
spending as much time as she does on her courses. She says it very hard,
but I try to point out to her that it’s really supposed to be about the courses
and that that’s quite okay. We’re all going to Mount Holyoke next
weekend for family weekend. Our son is going to join us there too. It was
his idea to go. He wanted to see where his sister lives and get a sense of
her college experience.
MR. SHAH: What’s it like having the kids out of the house?
MR. SANDMAN: It’s very quiet around the house. I miss our rituals. I miss the Saturday
morning breakfast with Joe and the Saturday lunches with Elizabeth. In
the past year, we always watched the TV show Glee together as a family,
so now we have to compare notes by phone or by e-mail. So I miss those
things, but, on the other hand, it’s nice to be able to do adult things on a
weeknight again. Beth and I feel like we’re back to the place where we
were early in our marriage before we had kids, where we could do what
wanted to do when we wanted to do it. It’s liberating. So that part is nice.
MR. SHAH: And since we began our interview sessions, your mother passed away, and
your father began the transition of moving to Boston. Would you like to
talk about that?
MR. SANDMAN: Yes. My Mom died this summer at ninety-one. The last few years have
been very, very difficult. She lived in the nursing facility at the continuing
care community where they had lived since Thanksgiving Day of 2006,
and she had during those four years some relatively good periods. There
were a few periods where she was able to go out to dinner and
communicate pretty well, but that was very uncommon. For, I think it
was, about fifteen months before she died, she really wasn’t able to get
out, and she was in a wheelchair for most of that time. Her quality of life
was not good and she—I know because she said so—she thought that she
had lived too long. On the other hand, I think she held on for as long as
she did for my dad. She was worried about him. (Long pause.)
As hard as it was (voice breaking), it was beautiful to see the way
my dad cared for her. He spent every day for the past four years, ten hours
a day, in her room. It was a mind-numbingly monotonous routine where
every day was the same, and the only variations for him were when one of
us would go down to visit, which we tried to do frequently. We tried to
make sure that they never went more than two weeks without a visit.
Sometimes it was a little longer than that, but, generally, we got down
there with frequency. Each of us would go down about six times a year.
That’s one of the benefits of coming from a big family, when you have
five people to share visiting. And when we went down to visit, the days
for us were identical, too, but this was my dad’s life. And he did hold out
hope for an unrealistically long period of time that she might, at some
point, be able to come home, and that they could live together again.
Eventually, he realized that wasn’t going to happen, and, at that point, he
adjusted his expectations and just wanted her to have a good day.
But it was still very, very hard for him when she died because, as
difficult as the prior four years had been, his life had purpose and
meaning. Every day, he had something to do. And when that was no
longer there, I think he was kind of overwhelmed with the loneliness of
the situation and the emptiness of it. And I also think that he’s
experienced what I think many people experience with the death of a
person after some period of extended illness or mental incapacity, and that
is that his memories of my mom have skipped over the past four years.
That’s not the way he remembers her. He remembers her when she was
vibrant and well, and that’s what he misses. The image of her for the past
four years is not the one that he carries in her memory. And I found the
same thing myself. When I was down there a little more than a week ago
to help him move to Boston (pause), I thought about stopping by the
nursing home, just to see the place one last time, and I stopped myself
(voice breaking) because that wasn’t the way I want to remember my
mom. That’s not the way I do remember her.
So it’s funny. I never dreamed that I would live to be fifty-nine
years old and still have both my parents alive, and that they would, both of
them, live into their nineties. In fact, I don’t know another person who’s
had both of their parents live into their nineties. So, you might think – I
used to think when I was much younger that eventually you would reach a
point in life where you kind of prepared for your parents’ passing, but you
never are (voice breaking). Having said that, I feel greatly blessed to have
had my mom for as long as we had her, and I’ve really come to appreciate
that in talking to others since she died about their experiences losing a
parent. All of them lost a parent much earlier in the parent’s life and in
theirs than I lost my mom.
So, Dad decided to move to Boston. I think he concluded that
there just wasn’t much for him in Naples, where they’d been living. He’s
always very concerned about not being a burden on his kids, and I think
that he felt guilty about continuing to live in Florida and having us come
to visit him there. He felt like he was imposing on us to come down and
see him there. At the same time, I think he really needed the visits. I
don’t think he could have handled the isolation of being there without our
coming down frequently. He initially wanted to move to Albany, but
Albany doesn’t have the kind of continuing care facility that he’d been
living in Florida, living in independently, but Boston does. And by any
rationale measure, Boston is, of course, the logical place for him to go.
Three of his five kids are there. Five of his ten grandchildren are there.
Both of his great-grandchildren are there. But my dad, being the person
that he is, looks at that situation and says, “Oh, no, I’m going to be a
burden on my children. They’re going to feel obligated to come over and
visit me and to have me to their houses for dinner, and I don’t want to do
that.” And I’ve tried to tell him that it’s a blessing and not a burden to
have your dad nearby, but that’s just not the way he thinks.
He wanted to drive for the move. We had a moving van for his
stuff, but he doesn’t enjoy flying, it’s difficult for him at this point. He
walks, but with difficulty, and it’s just kind of a hassle to deal with airline
travel. So, I decided to do the drive, the entire drive, with him. Just the
two of us. Road trip with Dad. And we left a week ago Monday from
Naples and drove 1,634 miles to Boston, arriving last Friday morning, and
it was a lot of fun. It was interesting. We stayed in cheap motels, the kind
where you park right outside your door. We ate bad southern food. He
went to McDonald’s for the first time in his life. I had no idea he had
never been to a McDonald’s. He had the experience inadvertently. He
stopped to use the restroom and, of course, he felt guilty about using the
restroom and not buying anything, so he suggested we have lunch there. I
said that was fine with me if it was okay with him, and he said, “What do
they have?” I said, “They have McDonald’s. What do you think they
have?” But that’s when I realized he had never set foot in a McDonald’s
before. He had a hamburger, a single basic hamburger. I don’t think he’ll
be back (laughter). Maybe he lived to be ninety-one because he’d never
been to a McDonald’s before.
But the move is hard for him. The place where he’s living in
Boston is a very nice place but leaving him there when I came back this
past Monday, reminded me of bringing our son to college—waving
goodbye, while he stands on the lawn of the dorm—but in many ways it’s
much harder for my Dad than it was for my son. My son was, you know,
moving into a place where everybody else was going through the same
experience, whereas my dad is moving into a place where people have
been for some time, and he’s the new kid on the block, and he doesn’t
know where anything is, and he doesn’t know anybody, and that’s just
very, very hard at that age.
He doesn’t really know Boston. He had been driving until we
moved, but he gave up his car, so now he’s lost that independence. He can
only get some place on the shuttle that the place he’s living in has or if one
of his kids drives him someplace, so that’s difficult. I think it will just be
a matter of time, that it will get easier, and I hope that the benefits of being
close to his family will become apparent to him and he’ll get past the guilt
thing, but it’s a tough transition.
MR. SHAH: And, last, do you have any final thoughts for anybody who might be
reading this ten, twenty, or fifty years from now?
MR. SANDMAN: I’m having— I don’t want to say I’ve had— I’m having a great career
because I’ve just kind of gone where life has taken me. I never could have
plotted the course that got me to where I am now. I never could have
anticipated it. But I was open to things as they came along, and I think
because I didn’t have a road map for my life, I was probably more
amendable to opportunities as they popped up than I might have been
otherwise. And I’ve also really appreciated my life outside my job—
obviously my family life, but also the other organizations that I’ve been
involved with. They’ve really enriched my life and added a dimension to
it that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. So, the lesson I draw is just go with
the flow and go where life takes you and wonderful things will happen.