ABA Annual Meeting 2007

Being Karen Mathis

Posted Aug 9, 2007 12:51 PM CDT
By Terry Carter

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Bright and early this morning, ABA Journal senior writer Terry Carter began taking us behind the scenes at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco with ABA President Karen Mathis, shadowing her for every minute of her 15-hour day, which begins at the bottom of the post and ends at the top.

San Francisco: Thursday Aug. 9 with ABA President Karen Mathis

Thanks. Now it's your turn, Bill.

8:50 p.m. PST: At the Board of Governors dinner at Scott Howard, the handshake/hug tally was at 292, with the evening just beginning.

On the way to dinner from a 9th Circuit reception, Mathis shared her private car with U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald, of Memphis, Tenn. (Donald is a member of the ABA Journal Board of Editors.)

Mathis said that by now, "All I say is thank you, thank you, thank you, because at this point anything having to do with policy is for [incoming ABA president] Bill Neukom."

Recap: A Day in the Annual Meeting Life of President Mathis, Handshakes Near 200

5:29 PST: An ABA president at an annual meeting is tightly scheduled, from early in the morning until late in the evening. The mix includes a number of parachute jumps, which means scurrying to a hotel conference room or ballroom and giving the initial address as the program begins. Then it’s out the door and on to another after this one gets going. Then there are the longer stays, and that usually indicates the president’s personal or professional interest in the matter at hand.

At 3 p.m. Mathis scurried to a program that is part of her signature Youth At Risk initiative, as was this morning’s visit to a facility helping youths come off the streets and into education and jobs. The afternoon session was part of Mathis’ National Youth at Risk Roundtable Series. The topic: “Holla if you Hear me, Straight Talk about Hip Hop.”

Mathis stayed the two full hours because, she said, she wanted to. And she played on that in her opening remarks: “They can’t impeach me. They can’t re-elect me. And they can’t fire me.”

Debate concerned chicken-and-egg arguments over whether rap music, an artistic outlet for hip-hop culture, leads to hate and violence in society or vice versa. Those attending were going to hear some examples of rap music made by juveniles who were in Chicago’s Cook County Juvenile Detention Center but, wouldn’t you know it, a determination was made that the stuff was just too raw with too many “Fs” and “Ns” for this sort of gathering.

Like many of the problems taken up in Youth at Risk round tables, this one tended to come down to little or no family centering and value-making for youths. But this one has another angle: Most there were in agreement that record companies and others making money off violence and misogyny in music and videos tend to distance themselves when confronted about it. And they continue making profits.

Most of Mathis’ appearances today were quick hits. But she spent two hours each on the outreach center for kids on the streets and the hip-hop panel discussion.

We skipped lunch today, at least in the blog.

After giving one of those kickoff speeches to the National Conference of State Judges, Mathis went to the annual meeting headquarters hotel, the San Francisco Marriott, for a Board of Governors photos session and lunch. At one table with Mathis were president-elect William Neukom, to whom she hands the president’s gavel in a few days; Mike Greco, the immediate past president who handed it to her this time last year, and ABA executive director Hank White.

Much of the chat concerned the work of a new ABA face at the table, Rob Boone, the newly hired director of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative. Bits of Boone’s resume came out, including having worked at the U.S. State Department and at the United Nations, among other jobs.

Between appearances, Mathis visited the Moscone Convention Center for just a few minutes of what the average lawyer at an annual meeting experiences. She went booth to booth, checking out vendors and cadging a couple of the giveaways, which are quite good this year, by the way.

That visit also added some numbers to our count of handshakes and hugs, which neared the 200 mark by late afternoon.

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