Surrounded by Excellence

Lydia Anglin ’18 persevered through tough moments at Cornell to “become something bigger than myself, to leave a legacy.”
Lydia Anglin
Monday, May 14, 2018

Was it always easy for Lydia Anglin ’18, about to graduate from the ILR School in two weeks?

No, it was not, she reveals in her story, posted on “The Failure Project,” which also documents some of her accomplishments.

Launched in 2017 at Cornell, The Failure Project invites students to post their failures and successes. Anglin, a student leader and freelance writer from Houston, explained in an interview why she shared her vulnerabilities.

“I shared my experiences because so often, we see the end product. It’s important to show others it’s normal to feel challenged, make mistakes or feel low at times. Failure is an important part of success.”

In her post, she documents failures: “Failed my driving test four times; received a -32 percent  (yes, a negative score) on my first college paper; sobbed like a baby and couldn't speak coherently when meeting Michelle Obama for the first time.”

"Like most college students who are used to receiving an A+ on everything in high school, receiving a -32 percent on my first paper freshman year really felt like a new low. I didn't know how to motivate myself to push forward.

I was frequently recognized for my writing skills, so I felt like my favorite teddy bear had been snatched away. I seriously considered dropping out of Cornell for a hectic 30 minutes (before I realized that I was being dramatic and that my mom would kill me).”

She finished the class with an A, by the way.

As the first American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Anglin recounts being swept up in the presidential campaign of Barack Obama when she was 12 years old. Energized by the buzz the election was creating in her hometown, she watched in amazement the Obamas’ strength, charisma, diplomacy, intelligence and kindness. She vowed to one day work for them in The White House. 

In the fall of 2016, she did. As a White House intern in the National Economic Council, Anglin helped shape policy and assist national initiatives in the final months of the Obama administration.

By the end of this summer, including her time at the White House, Anglin will have worked nine internships.

In her piece for Jopwell, a diversity hiring startup, she recounts securing — at age 16 — her first internship clerking in the 164th Civil District Court. After Anglin offered to work free, Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan became a mentor, which gave Anglin the confidence that there is “definitely” a place for black women in the political system. Her other professional experience includes three internships at Goldman Sachs and stints at Shell Oil and Vinson & Elkins LLP, a law firm.

“I feel like I developed who I am, and who I’ll be, while at Cornell. There is something so special about being in an environment where everyone is going somewhere and doing something. The resources are unparalleled and we have a lot of flexibility to explore. If something is not available, you can create it.”

On campus, Anglin was a founding partner of the Black Ivy Pre-Law Society, which was feaured in Teen Vogue last spring, and vice president of Les Femmes de Substance, which supports undergraduate women of color pursuing professional and leadership development. She was also a diversity outreach ambassador for Cornell undergraduate admissions, an ambassador for Jopwell and a two-time student federal financial aid lobbyist at the U.S. Congress.

Last fall, she was named a Forbes Under 30 Scholar and was awarded the Certificate for Engaged Leadership, allowing her to travel to London and Switzerland for human rights and policy conferences. Pursuing her growing interests for public policy and the impact of international relations on U.S. policy, she was recently accepted into the Global Governance & Ethics master’s program at University College London. She is now deciding between graduate school or returning to Capitol Hill and going to law school next year.

Anglin says she has become empowered while at Cornell and is passionate about using her voice to enact change — to create more opportunities for minority and female communities. Her internships, on-campus experiences and friendships have laid the foundation.

“From the professors I conducted independent research. With the squad of life-long friends I have made during my four years at Cornell, I have been surrounded by excellence. And, I have tried to leave things better than I found them. Cornell, and particularly ILR, have allowed me to be a part of something bigger than myself, to leave a legacy,” Anglin said.