Michael S. Bosworth ’00
At the time I graduated from Princeton, I knew that my education had been extraordinary. I understood then, as I certainly understand now, that the courses I took and the experiences I shared with my professors and classmates taught me about the true power of ideas, how to shape them, how to move people with them. What I most certainly did not appreciate at the time was precisely how valuable my education—and particularly my studies in history (my major)—would be to my ultimate career. That’s because I had only the foggiest sense of what my career would be.
Choosing to major in history was the easy part for me. I have always loved history. Growing up, I was one of those kids who begged his parents to take family vacations to Revolutionary War battlefields, presidential museums, and the like. I devoured biographies. I watched documentaries. As an undergraduate, I took as many courses in history as time (and numerous graduation requirements) would allow, studying as many different peoples, parts of the world, and time periods as I could. I studied with inspiring professors such as James McPherson, John Murrin, and Anthony Grafton. And for my independent work, I was able to write on topics that truly fascinated me, such as the ideological volatility of the early American republic and Earl Warren’s conflicting views on the civil rights of minority groups.
Still a history student
What I did not realize was how studying history would later prepare me for my ultimate career in the law. After graduating from law school, and after serving as a law clerk to federal judges at the district court, appellate court, and Supreme Court levels, I became (and remain) a federal prosecutor in New York. I specialize in investigating and prosecuting public corruption cases. Many of the cases we investigate are historical in nature; that is to say, we investigate allegations of crimes that occurred in the past. It falls to us to reconstruct these events, figuring out what happened by reviewing documents whose significance is not at first easy to understand and by meeting with witnesses whose recollections and understandings are shaped (and often limited) by narrow perspectives or the passage of time.
In these respects, being a prosecutor is like being a history student all over again. And the skills Princeton’s Department of History taught me, the undergraduate work I did trying to piece together historical events based on disparate and incomplete evidence, prepared me well for the job I now hold. It’s one of the many ways in which the life I now lead was shaped by extraordinary experiences and opportunities I had at Princeton.