ABA President Paulette Brown's Historic Installation Speech

For Immediate Release
08/03/2015 

Kate Coscarelli
Sr. Managing Director, Communications
732-937-7548 

REMARKS OF PAULETTE BROWN

PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION

HOUSE OF DELEGATES

HYATT REGENCY CHICAGO

EAST TOWER, GOLD LEVEL, GRAND BALLROOM

AUGUST 3, 2015

3:00 PM

 

BUILDING UPON OUR GREATNESS THROUGH CREATIVE COLLABORATION

CHAIR REFO, PRESIDENT HUBBARD, OFFICERS, FELLOW BOARD MEMBERS, AND MY COLLEAGUES IN THIS AUGUST HOUSE, GOOD AFTERNOON. IT’S A JOYOUS DAY.

ALTHOUGH  IT HAS BEEN  ALMOST 40 YEARS SINCE I STARTED PRACTICING LAW, ON A DAY LIKE TODAY I FEEL LIKE AN EXCITED, NEWLY MINTED LAWYER WHO JUST LEARNED THAT SHE PASSED THE BAR EXAM. YOU REMEMBER THAT SENSATION — THE FEELING OF ACHIEVEMENT AND THAT ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

PRESIDENT HUBBARD, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR STELLAR AND ENERGETIC LEADERSHIP OVER THE PAST YEAR.

YOU HAVE FOSTERED A MUCH-NEEDED AND LONG-OVERDUE DISCUSSION THROUGHOUT THE BAR ON HOW WE CAN HARNESS INNOVATION TO EXPAND LEGAL SERVICES FOR ALL. YOU PRESIDED OVER THE ABA’S CELEBRATION OF THE 800TH ANNIVERSARY OF MAGNA CARTA, HERALDING ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO THE LEGAL PRINCIPLES THAT WE ALL HOLD DEAR. YOU HAVE BEEN A GREAT LEADER FOR OUR ASSOCIATION.

AND THANK YOU, CHAIR REFO, FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES. YOU REPRESENT US SO WELL IN THE HOUSE AND BEYOND.

I AM SO GRATEFUL THAT MY FATHER, WILBUR BROWN, IS ABLE TO BE WITH US TODAY.  HE, ALONG WITH HIS WIFE, DOLORES; MY SON, DIJAUN; MY SISTERS, BRENDA AND CARLITA; AND MY NIECE AND NEPHEWS, HAVE ALWAYS GIVEN ME UNWAVERING SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT.  MY MOTHER, MY GREATEST CHEERLEADER, IS BACK IN BALTIMORE, BUT SHE IS HERE IN SPIRIT AND SHE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO RECEIVING A BLOW-BY-BLOW ACCOUNT OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF TODAY.  THANK YOU, TO ALL MY FAMILY MEMBERS AND DEAR FRIENDS, INCLUDING MY COLLEGE ROOMMATES, CHARLENE AND PEGGY, WHO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO BE HERE TODAY FOR THIS EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT.

FORTY YEARS AGO, I HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING WHAT THE FUTURE HAD IN STORE FOR ME.  I GREW UP IN SEGREGATED BALTIMORE — WHERE WHAT WAS JUST AND WHAT WAS LEGAL WERE OFTEN TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS.

I WAS VERY FORTUNATE TO GROW UP WITH A SUPPORTIVE FAMILY AND THE VERY BEST PARENTS. MY MOTHER AND FATHER INSTILLED IN ME THE VALUE OF HARD WORK AND COMMUNITY SERVICE. I KNEW FROM AN EARLY AGE THAT I WANTED TO GIVE BACK, TO BE AN AGENT OF CHANGE, TO USE EVERY OPPORTUNITY I HAD TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE.

COLLEGE WAS AN INCREDIBLY FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE FOR ME. SOME OF YOU MAY BE WONDERING IF YOU MISSED A MEMO ABOUT TODAY’S DRESS CODE. THE SEA OF CRIMSON  AND CREAM THAT YOU SEE IN THE HOUSE TODAY IS MY SORORITY SISTERS OF DELTA SIGMA THETA SORORITY INC. THEY HAVE GATHERED HERE IN CHICAGO FROM THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY TO SHARE THIS VERY SPECIAL TIME WITH ME. 

IT’S SO WONDERFUL TO BE AMONG SO MANY FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES FROM OVER THE YEARS. WHAT MAKES THIS EXTRA SPECIAL FOR ME IS THE PRESENCE OF MY LAW FIRM, LOCKE LORD. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ATTENDING AND FOR ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT — STARTING WITH WALTER REED, BOB SHUFTAN, ALAN LEVIN, AND NOW, JERRY CLEMENTS. 

THANK YOU NEW JERSEY!  I COULD NOT BE HERE WITHOUT YOU. 

THERE ARE SO MANY WHO HAVE HELPED ME ALONG THE WAY. THANK YOU TO THE YOUNG LAWYERS AND LAW STUDENTS WHO ARE A CONSTANT INSPIRATION TO ME AND A REMINDER OF HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO INVEST IN OUR FUTURE.

FINALLY, I WOULD BE REMISS IF I DID NOT THANK MY RIGHT-HAND WOMAN, ALTHERIA MERRICKS; MY ABA SCHEDULER, LANITA THOMAS; AND MY ADVISOR, LAURA ABBASI. I WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL OF THE ABA PROFESSIONALS, TOO NUMEROUS TO NAME AT THE MOMENT, LED BY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JACK RIVES, FOR ALL THAT YOU DO DAY IN AND DAY OUT TO MAKE OUR ASSOCIATION A SUCCESS.

THERE IS ONE MORE SPECIAL PERSON WHO I MUST MENTION, AND THAT IS MARINA JACKS. SHE HAS GUIDED ME, AS I KNOW SHE HAS DONE FOR SO MANY OF YOU HERE, AND PROVIDED WISE COUNSEL SINCE MY DAYS AS A YOUNG LAWYER, AND I WILL MISS INTERACTING WITH HER ON A DAILY BASIS.  

I HAVE GROWN UP WITH SO MANY OF YOU IN THE PROFESSION, AND TOGETHER, WE HAVE COLLABORATED TO MAKE THE ABA THE BEST PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION, I WOULD DARE SAY, IN THE WORLD.  AFTER GRADUATING FROM LAW SCHOOL, I KNEW I HAD ACHIEVED SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL IN MY LIFE.  I GREW UP OBSERVING THE WORKS OF THE REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND BALTIMORIAN CLARENCE MITCHELL, JR., AND WHILE I DID NOT KNOW ANY LAWYERS PERSONALLY, I ADMIRED THEM FROM AFAR, INCLUDING A FEW FAMOUS LAWYERS FROM BALTIMORE: JUSTICE THURGOOD MARSHALL, JUANITA JACKSON MITCHELL, AND THE MURPHYS.  THE MANNER IN WHICH THEY EMPLOYED THE LAW FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR SOCIETY AND TO UPLIFT ALL AMERICANS — REGARDLESS OF RACE OR GENDER — WAS NOTHING SHORT OF REMARKABLE.

THROUGH THEM AND OTHERS, I CAME TO UNDERSTAND THE POWER AND EFFECTIVENESS OF CREATIVE, COLLABORATIVE, AND THOUGHTFUL PEOPLE.

THAT LESSON IN “CREATIVE COLLABORATION” WAS AND REMAINS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO ME.

THAT WAS ONE OF THE PRIMARY REASONS I JOINED THE ABA: TO GAIN EXPERIENCE, TO NETWORK, AND TO REFINE MY SKILLS. MOST OF ALL, I WANTED TO WORK WITHIN OUR ASSOCIATION TO STRENGTHEN OUR PROFESSION AS WE WORKED TO IMPROVE THE FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM FOR ALL AMERICANS.     

AS IDEALISTIC AND ENERGETIC AS I AM, NONE OF MY GOALS COULD BE ACHIEVED ALONE. I WOULD NOT HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY. EVERYONE HERE IN THIS ROOM, ALONG WITH ALL OF THE NEARLY 400,000 MEMBERS OF OUR ASSOCIATION, ARE BOUND TOGETHER BY OUR SHARED INTENT TO BUILD A BETTER AND MORE FAIR LEGAL SYSTEM.

INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY, WE ARE VERY POWERFUL. 

DURING MY YEAR AS PRESIDENT, I WANT TO LEVERAGE THE GREAT POWER OF OUR ASSOCIATION AND FOCUS ON THE ABA’S FOUR GOALS, PARTICULARLY THOSE THAT BUILD ON OUR COMMITMENT TO DEFEND LIBERTY AND DELIVER JUSTICE. I WANT TO FURTHER OUR ASSOCIATION’S WORK TOWARD A MORE DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE PROFESSION. AND I WANT TO SERVE OUR MEMBERS, AND IN DOING SO HIGHLIGHT THE TREMENDOUS VALUE OF OUR ASSOCIATION AND OUR MANY ENTITIES.  THESE EFFORTS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED THROUGH ASSOCIATION-WIDE COLLABORATIONS, AS WELL AS PARTNERING WITH EXTERNAL ORGANIZATIONS, INCLUDING THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR STATE COURTS, AMONG OTHERS.  I HAVE AN AMBITIOUS AGENDA, AND MANY OF THESE COLLABORATIONS ARE ALREADY TAKING PLACE.

THIS IS A CRITICAL TIME FOR OUR PROFESSION. IN A DAY AND AGE WHERE THERE IS SO MUCH ACRIMONY IN OUR BODY POLITIC, MISTRUST IN THE LAW, AND EVEN CONTEMPT FOR THE LEGAL PROCESS, I BELIEVE IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY, AS AN ASSOCIATION, TO REBUILD THE TRUST IN AMERICA’S JUSTICE SYSTEM AND TO FULFILL OUR NATION’S PROMISE OF EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW. 

CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON, THE GREAT LEGAL MIND AND THE ARCHITECT OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, ASKED – “ARE WE SOCIAL ENGINEERS FOR JUSTICE?” THE ANSWER IS, YES, WE ARE!

AS LAWYERS — REGARDLESS OF OUR IDEOLOGY, AGE, PRACTICE AREA, OR PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT— WE ALL BELIEVE THAT THIS NATION’S LAWS MUST BE APPLIED EQUALLY. WE DEEPLY VALUE THE CONCEPT THAT THE JUSTICE SYSTEM MUST NOT ONLY BE FAIR, BUT MUST BE PERCEIVED AS FAIR BY EVERYONE IN ORDER TO BE EFFECTIVE.

SADLY, THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF NEWS TO THE CONTRARY THESE DAYS. MICHAEL BROWN. FREDDIE GRAY. ERIC GARNER. WALTER SCOTT.  TAMIR RICE, SANDRA BLAND, AND THE SOUTH CAROLINA 9… AND, THERE ARE CASES TOO NUMEROUS TO MENTION IN WHICH PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT RACES AND BACKGROUNDS WHO COMMIT THE SAME OFFENSE ARE CHARGED DIFFERENTLY AND/OR GO BEFORE THE SAME JUDGE GET DISPARATE SENTENCES.

IT IS HARDLY A SURPRISE THAT A RECENT HARVARD STUDY SHOWED THAT NEARLY HALF OF YOUNG AMERICANS LACK CONFIDENCE IN THE FAIRNESS OF OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM AND EVEN MORE HOLD A DIM VIEW OF RACE RELATIONS. MUCH OF THIS CAN LIKELY BE ATTRIBUTED TO IMPLICIT BIAS, THE SUBTLE AND SOMETIMES NOT-SO-SUBTLE PREJUDICES WE MAY UNCONSCIOUSLY HOLD — WHERE PRECONCEPTIONS GO UNACKNOWLEDGED AND UNRECOGNIZED – EXCEPT BY THOSE SUFFERING THEIR DEVASTATING EFFECT.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO US AS LAWYERS AND AS MEMBERS OF THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION?

IT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE THE ABA IS NOT ACCUSTOMED TO LOOKING THE OTHER WAY WHEN THERE ARE THREATS TO OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM OR TO OUR GOAL IV, PRESERVING THE RULE OF LAW. I SUBMIT TO YOU, WE CANNOT NOW AFFORD TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY AS THIS BIAS IN OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM ERODES THE PUBLIC’S FAITH IN THE FAIRNESS OF OUR LAWS AND TRUST IN THOSE WHO ENFORCE IT, PRACTICE IT, AND ADMINISTER IT.

MANY OF US HAVE SPENT SIGNIFICANT PORTIONS OF OUR CAREERS ADVOCATING FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION. I LOOK FORWARD TO LEVERAGING THE POWER OF OUR MEMBERS TO PROMOTE FULL AND EQUAL DIVERSITY AND TO END BIAS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AS WE HAVE COMMITTED TO DO WITH GOAL III.

BUT WE HAVE REASON TO BE PROUD. TO OUR CREDIT, THE ABA HAS MADE GREAT STRIDES ON THIS FRONT. THE ASSOCIATION DEVELOPED TRAINING IN 2010 FOR JUDGES, PROSECUTORS, AND DEFENSE ATTORNEYS ON RACIAL AND ETHNIC DISPARITIES IN THE LOCAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEMS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. AND MOST RECENTLY, THE ABA LAUNCHED A NEW PROJECT TO ADDRESS IMPLICIT BIAS AMONG JURORS, ATTORNEYS, AND JUDGES. DURING PRESIDENT HUBBARD’S YEAR AND IN COLLABORATION WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, A DATA BASE WAS CREATED TO DETERMINE THE COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF FELONY CONVICTIONS.

THIS YEAR, THROUGH MY NEW COMMISSION ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION 360, CHAIRED BY EILEEN LETTS AND DAVID WOLFE, WE WILL DO AS THE TITLE SUGGESTS, REVIEW EVERYTHING THE ABA DOES TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION, INTERNALLY AND EXTERNALLY. WE WILL ALSO THOROUGHLY ANALYZE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM AND DEVELOP SUSTAINABLE ACTION PLANS FOR ADVANCING IT OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS.

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION 360 WILL CLOSELY EXAMINE EQUAL JUSTICE AND RULE OF LAW ISSUES TO ADDRESS A SYSTEM WHERE DISPARITIES ARE OFTEN STARK AND UNAMBIGUOUS.  WE WILL DEVELOP IMPLICIT BIAS TRAINING MATERIALS FOR THOSE WHOSE DECISIONS ARE CRITICAL TO ACHIEVING JUSTICE IN OUR COMMUNITIES — JUDGES, PROSECUTORS, AND PUBLIC DEFENDERS.

WE ARE A NATION DRIVEN BY INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF DIVERSE, VIBRANT, AND MULTICULTURAL COMMUNITIES. YET OUR PROFESSION DOES NOT REFLECT THE PEOPLE WE SERVE. UNFORTUNATELY, WE ARE THE LEAST DIVERSE OF ALL COMPARABLE PROFESSIONS, INCLUDING ACCOUNTANTS AND AUDITORS, FINANCIAL MANAGERS, AND PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS. A RECENT STUDY REVEALED, 88 PERCENT OF ALL LAWYERS IN THIS COUNTRY ARE WHITE.  BUT WE, THIS ASSOCIATION, HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THAT.

TO ENHANCE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION, OUR COMMISSION WILL EXAMINE THE MODEL RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHANGES. WE WILL ALSO DEVELOP POLICIES ENCOURAGING STATES AND TERRITORIAL MANDATORY BARS TO UNIFORMLY REQUIRE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION CLE CREDITS.

AND THE COMMISSION WILL EXAMINE WAYS TO PROVIDE DIVERSE ATTORNEYS WITH THE TOOLS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO ACHIEVE PROFESSIONAL AND ECONOMIC SUCCESS THROUGHOUT ALL AREAS OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION.

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION DOESN’T JUST MEAN BRIDGING RACIAL, GENDER, OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION DIVIDES. IT MEANS RECOGNIZING WHAT WE HAVE IN COMMON, HOW WE HAVE SO MANY SHARED GOALS, AND THE MANY WAYS IN WHICH THEY MAKE US A BETTER, STRONGER, AND A MORE NOBLE PROFESSION.

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IS ABOUT DOING MORE THAN JUST OFFERING ENOUGH ROOM FOR A FOOT IN THE DOOR. IT IS ABOUT GIVING MORE PEOPLE A SEAT AT THE TABLE AND VALUING THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS AND UNIQUE PERSPECTIVES. IT IS WHY I AM A PROUD MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION. YOU HAVE PROVIDED ME, AND MANY OTHERS LIKE ME, WITH A SEAT AT THE TABLE.

I HAVE ALREADY TAKEN STEPS IN THIS DIRECTION IN OUR ORGANIZATION. FOUR OF THE 12 PEOPLE ON MY APPOINTMENTS COMMITTEE WERE YOUNG LAWYERS. MY APPOINTMENTS TO OUR ASSOCIATION’S MANY ESTEEMED COMMISSIONS, COMMITTEES, AND ENTITIES HAVE RESULTED IN THE MOST DIVERSE LEADERSHIP OUR ORGANIZATION HAS EVER SEEN.  AS OF TODAY, 54.85 PERCENT OF ALL APPOINTMENTS ARE FEMALE, 48 PERCENT ARE DIVERSE AND 28.55 PERCENT ARE WOMEN OF COLOR. AND MEN, HAVE NO FEAR, I ONLY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO APPOINT 1/3 OF ALL APPOINTMENTS. I AM ALSO PROUD TO HAVE APPOINTED THE FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN TO EVER SERVE ON THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY. WHILE STATISTICS ARE NOT MAINTAINED FOR YOUNG LAWYERS, I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THEY ARE WELL REPRESENTED AS WELL.  WE HAVE TO PRESERVE OUR FUTURE AND WITH THE HELP OF MEMBERS FROM YLD, WE WERE ABLE TO IDENTIFY AND APPOINT TALENTED YOUNG LAWYERS TO ALMOST ALL OF OUR COMMISSIONS AND COMMITTEES.

BY APPOINTING MORE NONTRADITIONAL MEMBERS TO COMMISSIONS AND COMMITTEES, I HOPE TO GIVE THEM AN OPPORTUNITY TO DEMONSTRATE THEIR TALENTS, GAIN EXPOSURE, AND WORK SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH MORE EXPERIENCED LAWYERS SHARING DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES FOR THE BETTERMENT OF NOT ONLY OUR ASSOCIATION, BUT FOR OUR PROFESSION. WE WANT AMERICA’S LAWYERS TO KNOW WE CAST A VERY WIDE NET.

WE WANT ALL OF OUR LAWYERS WITHOUT REGARD TO WHERE THEY HAIL FROM TO KNOW THE ABA CARES ABOUT THEM. THUS, ANOTHER INITIATIVE, “MAIN STREET ABA,” WILL REACH OUT TO LAWYERS AND COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY.  MANY OF YOU HAVE HEARD MY MESSAGE OF WANTING TO VISIT AT LEAST TWO STATES A MONTH, ESPECIALLY THOSE STATES WHERE LEADERSHIP HAS NOT BEEN IN A WHILE.  I HAVE ALREADY STARTED ON THIS QUEST.  SINCE BECOMING PRESIDENT-ELECT, I HAVE VISITED 27 STATES, SOME ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS. THE WELCOME I HAVE RECEIVED HAS BEEN NOTHING LESS THAN SPECTACULAR. I WAS TOLD FOR EXAMPLE, IN MISSISSIPPI, NO PRESIDENT OR PRESIDENT-ELECT HAD BEEN THERE IN 23 YEARS.  I SAW THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE COURTS IN NORTH DAKOTA AND HE WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED TO LEARN I WOULD BE THERE IN JUNE TO ATTEND AND PARTICIPATE IN ITS STATE BAR MEETING.  ALL LAWYERS DESERVE A LITTLE LOVE FROM THE ABA.

AND, BECAUSE IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO CONSIDER THE PIPELINE TO OUR PROFESSION, I HAVE BEEN AND I WILL CONTINUE TO INVITE YOUNG LAWYERS AND LAW STUDENTS TO JOIN ME FOR VISITS TO LOCAL BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. I VISITED NEARLY A DOZEN CLUBS IN MY PRESIDENT-ELECT YEAR. IN FACT, I VISITED ONE HERE IN CHICAGO EARLIER THIS WEEK, AND WE SHOULD GIVE A ROUND OF APPLAUSE TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO HAVE JOINED US AS OUR SPECIAL GUESTS TODAY FROM CHICAGO’S JAMES R. JORDAN, NAMED AFTER MICHAEL JORDAN’S FATHER, BOYS & GIRLS CLUB.  YOU SEE THEM ALL IN THEIR COLORFUL TEE SHIRTS, AND THEY ARE ALL EXTREMELY TALENTED.

LOOKING INTO THE EYES OF THESE CHILDREN, WE ARE LOOKING INTO OUR FUTURE. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF ALL OF US TO LEAVE THEM WITH A BETTER AND MORE STABLE WORLD THAN WHAT WE INHERITED.  

THE FACT IS, WE MUST INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY HELP ALL OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE GROW UP AND DEVELOP INTO THE MEN AND WOMEN THEY WERE MEANT TO BE. THAT MEANS EDUCATED, PRODUCTIVE, AND HEALTHY ADULTS WHO ARE MAKING A POSITIVE CONTRIBUTION TO THEIR COMMUNITIES AND SOCIETY.

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR OUR YOUTH TO SEE THE DIVERSITY OF OUR PROFESSION, AND TO MEET MEMBERS OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION, EXPOSING THEM TO WHAT IS POSSIBLE, BECAUSE IT CAN BE DIFFICULT TO ASPIRE TO BE SOMETHING YOU DON’T SEE.

AS SOME OF YOU MAY KNOW, WHEN I ENTERED COLLEGE, I SET OUT ON A PATH TO BE A SOCIAL WORKER TO HELP BETTER THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

FORTUNATELY, EVEN THOUGH I DIDN’T KNOW ANY LAWYERS GROWING UP, I HAD INSIGHTFUL MENTORS AND COLLEGE ROOMMATES. THEY CONVINCED ME THAT THE LAW WAS A VERY POWERFUL TOOL FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE.

AT EVERY BOYS & GIRLS CLUB I VISIT, THERE ARE YOUNG WOMEN AND YOUNG MEN YEARNING TO DO SOMETHING IMPORTANT WITH THEIR LIVES. THEY JUST NEED WINDOWS TO SEE THOSE OPPORTUNITIES. EVERY PERSON IN THIS ROOM CAN SERVE AS A WINDOW INTO OUR PROFESSION.

SOME OF YOU MAY RECALL HEARING ABOUT AND PERHAPS EVEN MEETING THE THREE YOUNG LADIES FROM THE BOYS & GIRLS CLUB WHO JOINED US AT MIDYEAR IN HOUSTON. THEIR INTERACTIONS WITH YOU, THE MEMBERS OF OUR ASSOCIATION, HAD A PROFOUND IMPACT. WHEN THEY FIRST ARRIVED AT OUR MEETING, NOT ONE HAD ANY INTEREST IN THE LAW.

BY THE END OF OUR DAY TOGETHER, THEY WANTED TO KNOW WHAT CLASSES THEY OUGHT TO TAKE IN COLLEGE TO PREPARE FOR CAREERS IN THE LAW. SINCE THEN, ONE OF THE YOUNG LADIES WON THE REGIONAL YOUTH OF THE YEAR COMPETITION. SHE CREDITS HER TIME WITH ALL OF YOU FOR HER INCREASED CONFIDENCE DURING THE COMPETITION. 

I AM SO PROUD OF THE YOUNG LAWYERS AND LAW STUDENTS WHO HAVE JOINED ME ON THESE VISITS. THEY ARE SERVING AS MENTORS TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO HAVE SO FEW TO LOOK UP TO.

AS LAWYERS, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US HAS THE POWER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. OUR PROFESSION HAS A STRONG TRADITION OF SERVING OTHERS. MANY OF YOU HAVE VOLUNTEERED YOUR TIME OVER THE PAST SEVEN YEARS TO THE NATIONAL CELEBRATION OF PRO BONO. THIS YEAR, I AM LOOKING TO ALL OF YOU TO HELP US GET MORE PRO BONO VOLUNTEERS THAN EVER BEFORE. WE ARE ORGANIZING A NATIONAL EVENT CALLED, “AND JUSTICE FOR ALL: AN ABA DAY OF SERVICE.” YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY SEEN PINS AT YOUR SEATS AND OTHER MATERIALS PROMOTING THE EVENT AT THIS MEETING.

PLEASE VISIT THE ABA’S CELEBRATE PRO BONO WEBSITE. JOIN US AS WE MOBILIZE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LAWYERS ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, TO VOLUNTEER THEIR LEGAL SERVICES. WE CAN’T REACH OUR GOAL WITHOUT YOU. WHILE IMPROVING OUR PROFESSION AND ADVANCING THE RULE OF LAW, WE WILL SHOW THE NATION THAT LAWYERS MATTER, THAT WE ARE MAKING A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE AND THAT WE ARE COMMITTED TO THE SERVICE OF OTHERS.

IT IS OUR MEMBERS WHO MAKE THE ABA’S VOICE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION SO STRONG. AND WE WANT TO THANK EACH OF YOU FOR YOUR COMMITMENT TO THE ABA BY PROVIDING A FREE MEMBERSHIP BENEFIT EACH DAY OF MY PRESIDENCY. WE ARE CALLING IT “ABA EVERYDAY.” WE WANT TO SHOWCASE THE TREMENDOUS VALUE OF OUR ASSOCIATION, WITH ALL OF ITS ENTITIES, AND HELP OUR MEMBERS EXPAND THEIR LEGAL SKILLS, DEEPEN THEIR CONNECTION TO THE LEGAL COMMUNITY, AND MAKE THE MOST OF THEIR PERSONAL TIME.

OUR SECTIONS, DIVISIONS, FORUMS — ALL OF OUR ENTITIES HAVE BEEN FABULOUS IN ENSURING THAT THERE IS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE 365 DAYS OF THE YEAR. WE WILL BE PROMOTING DAILY BENEFITS THROUGH THE ABA WEBSITE, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND THE ABA JOURNAL. AS PART OF THIS EFFORT, WE WILL INCLUDE A PRACTICAL, INTERACTIVE TOOLKIT THAT FOCUSES ON THE PROFESSIONAL NEEDS OF YOUNG LAWYERS. WE ARE ON TARGET TO HAVE THE FIRST PHASE, 0-3 YEARS, COMPLETED BY THE MIDYEAR MEETING.

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION, MAIN STREET, OUR NATIONAL DAY OF SERVICE, ABA EVERYDAY – ALL THESE INITIATIVES REQUIRE PARTNERSHIPS ACROSS OUR ORGANIZATION AND WITH YOU, OUR MEMBERS. WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN HEARTENING EXAMPLES OF COLLABORATIONS AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO SO MANY MORE. 

WE ARE ONE ASSOCIATION AND THAT IS CREATIVE COLLABORATION IN ACTION!

EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US IS BRINGING JUSTICE TO OUR NATION AND THE WORLD IN SO MANY WAYS BY EMPLOYING OUR LEGAL SKILLS. THE POET, R.L. SHARPE, WOULD HAVE CALLED THESE SKILLS OUR “BAG OF TOOLS.” 

“ISN’T IT STRANGE,” AS ONE OF HIS POEMS GOES: “HOW PRINCES AND KINGS AND CLOWNS THAT CAPER IN SAWDUST RINGS, AND COMMON PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME ARE BUILDERS FOR ETERNITY?

EACH IS GIVEN A LIST OF RULES; A SHAPELESS MASS: A BAG OF TOOLS. AND EACH MUST FASHION, ERE LIFE IS FLOWN, A STUMBLING BLOCK OR A STEPPING STONE.”

THIS REMARKABLE ORGANIZATION WE HAVE CREATED, CALLED THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION, IS OUR STEPPING STONE. WE, ALL OF US, ARE BUILDERS FOR ETERNITY, COMMITTING OURSELVES TO WORKING TOGETHER NOT MERELY BECAUSE IT IS AN INSTITUTIONAL IMPERATIVE, BUT ALSO BECAUSE IT IS A MORAL IMPERATIVE.

WE ARE AN EXTRAORDINARY PROFESSION AND ASSOCIATION, WITH A GREAT LEGACY AND A FUTURE FULL OF PROMISE. TOGETHER, WE WILL CONTINUE DEFENDING THE RULE OF LAW AND ADVOCATING FOR FAIRNESS AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN OUR SOCIETY.

IN THE DAYS, THE MONTHS, AND THE YEARS AHEAD, WE, TOGETHER, WILL HELP BROADEN THE ABA’S REACH SO THAT DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION CAN BECOME A STAPLE OF OUR PROFESSION AND OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM.

TOGETHER, WE WILL HELP OUR CURRENT MEMBERS FURTHER APPRECIATE THE VALUE OF THEIR MEMBERSHIP AND ALSO USE THIS TREMENDOUS VALUE TO BRING NEW MEMBERS INTO THE FOLD.  TOGETHER, WE WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS, THROUGH PRO BONO AND OTHER VOLUNTEER EFFORTS. WE WILL BE ROLE MODELS FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND HOPEFULLY INSPIRE A NEW GENERATION TO JOIN OUR RANKS. AND TOGETHER, WE WILL DO ALL THAT WE CAN TO REBUILD OUR NATION’S FAITH IN THE LAW AND TO ENSURE THAT JUSTICE IS A REALITY— FOR ALL.

THANK YOU.

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