Lan Lan
J.D. ’94, Harvard Law School

Professor Alford cares. He cares about how people feel. He always takes painstaking efforts to ensure people around him are not hurt and are at ease.  

Professor Alford refuses to be judgmental. This can be frustrating to people who want to categorize everyone and everything, as I did when I first came to HLS in 1991.    

I was brought up in Beijing during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. According to Chairman Mao, we had to always know who our enemies were and who our friends were. Yes, there were only two categories of people in China during those years: friends and foes. 

It was in one of Professor Alford’s classes/seminars in which mainland Chinese students and Taiwan students debated each other regarding the status of Taiwan.  An S.J.D. student from Taiwan told me to my face that he did not want Taiwan to be part of China and that he did not want to be a Chinese.  This shocked me to the core and I was looking to Professor Alford to be our judge. Of course, he did not take either side’s position. Instead, he continually nudged us to look at the issue from the other side’s perspective. Professor Alford’s seminar was a life-changing experience for me. Thanks to Professor Alford, I learnt to tolerate, and even began to understand, views harshly different from mine, and I also learnt that there is a much much bigger diversity than just friends and enemies. These changes prepared me for my next 20+ years of legal experience in representing international clients from all kinds of backgrounds. By the way, that Taiwan S.J.D. student and I have remained good friends to this day.

For the above reasons, I am eternally grateful to Professor Alford.