Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins offered some personal advice to law students and alumni gathered Friday night at the 35th Suffolk University Black Law Students Association Alumni Banquet.
Know your worth.
“One of the best things I learned early on is what I’m worth,” Rollins said during remarks to the gathering at Sargent Hall. “Not just monetarily, but as a person.”
Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, last November became the first African American woman in state history elected to the office of district attorney.
Although she has recently engaged in a public spat with Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration over her criminal justice reform efforts, Rollins for the most part steered clear of politics during her keynote address.
Instead, she focused on her own experience navigating the state and federal legal landscape.
Rollins recounted how she became general counsel for the MBTA. . While working as a federal prosecutor, she received two job offers at the state transit agency , but turned them down because she felt they were the wrong jobs for her.
“It makes decisions very, very easy for you when you know your worth,” she said.
The guidance was one of six pieces of advice—be grateful, be deliberate, know your worth, ignore the noise, always do what’s right, and failure happens—she gave to the crowd of 50 or so people.
She also spoke about some of the negativity she received during her campaign to become the top prosecutor in Suffolk County.
“If I listened to every person that told me ‘there’s never been a woman of color that’s ever done this,’ ‘No other woman has ever done this,’ ‘Boston is racist,’ ‘You can’t win,’ doom and gloom and all of that, I wouldn’t be standing here,” she said.
Rollins said she was told she would split the black and progressive vote in the Democratic primary , but she said she worked hard to win the nomination.
“It’s about doing the work and ignoring the noise,” she said.
She ended her address by speaking about failure.
“Whenever people read my [biography], or when I’m sitting in a room and hear someone’s [biography] and it’s like, ‘Oh, Rachael descended from Zeus and is the greatest,” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “No one ever talks about failure.”
She urged the crowd to learn from their failures, rather than “wallowing” or blaming others.
Isi Ehikhamhen, president of the Black Law Students Association called Rollins’s speech “amazing.”
“She seems like she really cares about her community,” Ehikhamhen, 25, said in an interview. “And for her to be the first black female DA of Suffolk, that means a lot to me personally.”