Parker Alumna Shines on National Television

Rocah ‘88 Becomes MSNBC Legal Analyst

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Mimi Rocah ’88 discusses politics on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Photo courtesy of Raw Story.

Above a chyron reading “Breaking News,” facing Brian Williams and the eyes of nearly two million Americans, Parker alumna Mimi Rocah beams as she castigates Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Williams poses a follow-up question as the camera angle shifts, and Rocah promptly responds, maintaining eye contact with the famous “11th Hour” host.

Rocah ‘88, former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and MSNBC and NBC News Legal Analyst, credits Parker faculty for instilling motivation in her that lasted decades after her graduation, even as she ascended to her role on national television.

Upper school English teacher Bonnie Seebold, Rocah’s advisor, served as one of such faculty members. “My first two years of high school were a little bit of a disaster,” Rocah said. “I did not do well. I was not living up to my potential. Every teacher, every report card said that I was more interested in socializing and hanging out with my friends than doing any kind of work. Bonnie Seebold was one of the teachers who took an interest in me and saw that I had potential academically and supported me, which I needed to get out of the cycle I was in.”

Seebold vividly recalls her relationship with Rocah but does not recall seeing Rocah struggle immensely. “Mimi was very acute,” Seebold said. “She had a lot of psychological acumen, she read people well, she was a great reader of literature. She was just good with people and human nature.”

Rocah’s shift in academic mindset prevailed over her self-reported initial lack of motivation as she attended Harvard University as an undergraduate and New York University School of Law graduating “magna cum laude” at both. She became an Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, one of the most influential federal court districts in the country. Following her tenure as an Assistant US Attorney, Rocah began teaching at the Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.

After serious contemplation, Rocah entered the public sphere. “News media was not something I thought about doing,” Rocah said, “but seeing our president on television publicly attacking and denouncing the FBI and the Department of Justice and politicizing it in a way I found dangerous, I thought the only way to counteract this was to talk about it so people hear that this is not normal.”

Now, Rocah appears regularly on MSNBC, conversing with world-renowned journalists about legal topics surrounding the Trump Administration, including the Russia Investigation and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Rocah’s success on national television comes at little surprise to Seebold. “Kids who are often good literature students—if they don’t go into writing or journalism, and now she’s in journalism—go to law school,” Seebold said. “I don’t know what the connection there is. It might be just liking people and understanding people that takes you in that direction.”

To take others in Rocah’s direction, Seebold frequently shares a fond memory of her with many of her students. During advisory, Rocah asked Seebold to read her paper for English class. Seebold recalls that the paper’s content was extraordinary until she reached one specific paragraph. When Seebold asked Rocah about the paragraph, Rocah said that she did not understand the topic addressed in that paragraph, but her teacher—Bill Duffy—mandated that his students discuss that topic in their respective papers. Seebold advised Rocah to meet with Duffy to discuss the topic, which she did.

Seebold uses this instance as a didactic story that she often shares with her students. “You have to understand something before you can write clearly about it,” Seebold said. “I always tell that story to students. Don’t try to bullshit your way through it. If you don’t understand what you’re writing about, you need to talk to somebody.”

Talking to somebody on national television requires mettle, as Rocah found out from the start of her work on MSNBC. Initially, she was terrified. “It’s very on the spot,” Rocah said. “You can’t really plan what you’re going to say, and I’m a planner. I like to know what I’m going to say, but that’s also part of the excitement of it.”

Rocah’s excitement concerning her role on MSNBC vaguely resembles the excitement she vividly recalls from her classes at Parker with English teacher William “Bill” Duffy. “I loved reading as a result of him and his classes,” Rocah said of Duffy. “I was not alone in that.”

Seebold recalls Parker alumni extolling Duffy after his death and stating that they wish they could have thanked him for his influence on their careers. Parker teachers, as Rocah revealed, planted the seeds that eventually helped her grow into her successful career. “I always tell students,” Seebold said, once you graduate and you have a memory of a teacher, and you think, ‘I should write them,’ do it.”