Holzman speaker Lapointe urges students to 'do the right thing'
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe described the ethical decisions he faced during his growing-up years after arriving to Miami from Haiti as a teenager who spoke no English. He loved the hard-working families in his new hometown, and admired the grit of his single mother, who raised five children despite never making more than $16,000 per year. But the challenges were significant.
Addressing Ransom Everglades’ upper school students during an assembly in the Lewis Family Auditorium on Nov. 13, Lapointe recalled that the city’s drug wars peaked during his youth in the mid-1980s, and marijuana, cocaine and heroin dealers populated the apartment complex in which he lived. Desperate not to disappoint his mother and increasingly aware of the costly consequences of veering from the right path, Lapointe avoided the poor decisions that upended the lives of many.
“The opportunities to go a certain way were there,” he said. “Once you go down the path doing bad things, it catches up to you eventually … All of us are going to make decisions in our lives that are going to track us, follow us our entire lives.”
Lapointe visited Ransom Everglades to participate in the Holzman Center of Applied Ethics Speaker Series, which is designed to help RE students grapple with ethical issues and prioritize ethical decision making. The Holzman Center of Applied Ethics was founded in 2021 after a seed donation from attorney Steve Holzman P’21, who was in attendance for Lapointe’s visit. Associate Head of School John A. King Jr., the founding director of the Holzman center, introduced Lapointe and attorney Jennifer Altman P’22 ’26 asked him questions.
Lapointe, appointed by President Joseph Biden to his current post, advised students to play the long game when it comes to ethical decision making, foregoing the instant gratification that, he said, never lasts. “It corrupts you when you do that; it erodes you for the rest of your life,” he said. “You do something [bad] once and you tend to do it again. That is why you don’t want to ever do it.”
Lapointe enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in the Gulf War after high school and then earned his bachelor’s and law degrees at Florida State. He began his legal career with the Florida Supreme Court, where he served as a law clerk from 1999 to 2001. He went on to serve as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, handling federal criminal matters that ranged from narcotics and firearms crimes to bank and mortgage fraud. Lapointe then moved into private practice before his recent appointment.
His biggest priority as U.S. Attorney, he said, is protecting all citizens in South Florida against the rising threat of hate crimes in the aftermath of the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel. Lapointe took questions on a range of topics from RE students, and reminded them how lucky they are – “you are probably the luckiest people in the world to be at this place," he said, "educated with the kind of resources that I’ve seen here.”
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.