On a sunny morning in 2007, just a few years after he had graduated from the Law School, Jason Goitia, ’03, experienced double vision.
“It actually happened during an interview with Goldman Sachs, for a job I really wanted,” Goitia recalled.
He got the job, but the double vision led within a few months to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Today, with an undaunted spirit, he deals with many challenging symptoms that include diminished vision, speech difficulties, and impaired coordination that requires him to use a walker to get around.
Now working for the National Organic Program at the US Department of Agriculture, where he’s been since 2012, he has also committed himself to helping others with disabilities.
“I always thought of myself as an empathetic person, but now I have a very real understanding of the struggles life can involve, even just to walk down a hallway,” he said. He chaired the Lawyers with Disabilities Involvement subcommittee of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the ABA Business Law Section, and he serves on the executive board of the National Association of Attorneys with Disabilities (NAAD), which advocates for opportunity, integration, and career advancement for attorneys with disabilities.
“A quote from Booker T. Washington has meant a lot to me after I was diagnosed with MS,” Goitia said. “‘If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.’ I have been helped and supported by so many people—family, friends, coworkers, supervisors, and professional peers—that I want to keep giving back. Without having understanding allies in this battle, life would be so much harder.”
He counts many classmates from the Law School among his most supportive friends. “That was one of the best things about law school for me, the lifelong relationships that started there,” he said. He’s on the board of the University of Chicago’s Latino Alumni Network and serves as a liaison for DC-area activities.
“Another invaluable thing I got from my great education at the Law School was the ability to analyze and solve problems,” he noted. “I use those skills every day in my job, and in other roles I’ve been fortunate enough to have.”
One of those roles was as the Diplomat of the ABA’s Business Law Section, where his responsibilities included encouraging the participation of diverse lawyers in the section’s activities, providing a springboard to leadership opportunities, and developing future leaders of the section. He also served on the eLawyering Task Force of the ABA’s Law Practice Division (he created his own virtual practice in 2010, and it was named as one of eight of the most innovative practices of that type).
“My experiences with the ABA and NAAD have been amazing—sitting at the table with some of the best minds in our profession and becoming part of networks where I’m just a phone call or email away from getting advice or assistance from a leading expert whenever I need it,” he said. “Add my Law School friends to that, and it’s just an incredible array of talent and wisdom for me to call on.”
Regarding the future, he said: “You never stop trying to achieve the best you can from life, as you also hope for a miracle. There’s a quote that really hit me when I first read it, something that Einstein said: ‘Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.’ That sums things up for me, along with one other quote, from a John Lennon lyric: ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’”