Make My Day
MY LAWYER SAYS I'M THE BEST
by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- There's a word in German, "Schadenfreude" (shodden-froid-uh) which means "finding pleasure in other people's misery."
You feel Schadenfreude when your snotty neighbor is showing off his brand new BMW and his house collapses on it. You feel Schadenfreude when a tv preacher claims to be holier than everyone, but gets caught stealing from his tv ministry and boinking his hot secretary.
You can even feel Schadenfreude when a high school student sues her high school to become the valedictorian, and is then discovered to have plagiarized large sections of articles she wrote for her local newspaper.
That's what happened to Blair Hornstine of Moorestown (New Jersey) High School. Just like two previous wannabe valedictorians I've written about, Hornstine stamped her little feet and threw a temper tantrum when her high school decided there be two valedictorians, instead of just one.
So she filed a federal lawsuit to be named the One And Only. And to show she was serious, she also demanded $2.7 million. She won the crown, but the money issue is still pending.
It started when parents and students complained that Hornstine's grade point average was unfairly weighted, because she didn't have to take certain classes, like gym. Hornstine has an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic fatigue, so she is considered a disabled student. So the school figured, "Hey, we've got an idea that would be fair to everyone."
But Hornstine said she didn't want to be known as The Disabled Valedictorian, so she filed the suit, demanding the high school follow its own rules. But there was such a severe backlash that Hornstine skipped her graduation citing a "hostile environment" at her high school. So, instead of giving the valedictory address, she'll miss the only event where her valedictorian status makes any difference whatsoever.
To make matters worse, there's now an email petition circulating around Harvard to have her removed from the freshman class because some students don't want to be associated with someone who sues over something so trivial. This is ironic, considering Harvard has one of the largest law schools in the country.
Happily for Hornstine, she will no longer be known as The Disabled Valedictorian. Unhappily, she is now known as the Whiny Selfish Brat Who Skipped The Only Ceremony That Would Recognize Her Number One Rank And She Might Not Be Allowed To Attend Harvard Next Year So Ha Ha Ha.
This month, it was discovered that five articles and essays Hornstine wrote for the Cherry Hill Courier-Post had entire passages from speeches and articles written by two Supreme Court Justices and President Bill Clinton.
These weren't just simple phrases, like asking what the definition of "is" is. These were great whacking chunks of political rhetoric that she cut-and-pasted into her stories. In her non-apology apology in a June issue of the Courier-Post, she said she didn't know" ... news articles didn't require as strict citation scrutiny as most school assignments." She also said "I was a 17-year-old with no experience in writing newspaper articles."
Many Schadenfreude aficionados, including Randy Cassingham of ThisIsTrue.com, have wondered why it's a life-or-death matter that Moorestown High School follow its own rules, but Hornstine doesn't have to follow universally-accepted newspaper rules?
But as much as I'm feeling Schadenfreude-ish about Hornstine's predicaments, I feel sorry for her too.
In researching this column, I learned that Hornstine has done some amazing things. According to a July 2002 Courier-Post article, she has won numerous local and national awards for moot court arguments. She created a local charity that cleaned and distributed 400 prom dresses for girls from low-income families. She raised money to pay for cleft palate surgeries for 10 Chinese orphans, and spoke at a world conference of students and teachers about disfigured orphan girls. She was a Winter Olympic torchbearer, she co-founded the Tri-County Food Drive, and she wanted to focus on poverty law when she graduated from law school in 2010.
In that same article, her debate coach said "She really strives to help other people ... (s)he really cares about other people, not just herself."
But now, in one brief selfish moment, Hornstine eclipsed her past accomplishments by whining about something so frivolous and petty. She stopped caring about other people, and made this all about herself. Rather than allowing someone else to share the spotlight, if only for a moment, she thinks she's entitled to $2.7 million.
She'll make an excellent lawyer.