Blazing a Path
During my speech to the ABA House of Delegates upon becoming president-elect in August 2003, I proudly proclaimed, “Today is a new day.”
When I turn over the gavel to Robert J. Grey Jr. at this month’s annual meeting in Atlanta, he will continue on the path that was opened for me. Also, Stephen Zack, a Cuban-American, will become chair of the House and Armando Lasa-Ferrer, a Latino-American from Puerto Rico, will become secretary-elect. Together we make a major statement about the American Bar Association’s commitment to provide opportunities for all members of our society.
Since becoming the president-elect nominee, I’ve traveled the country and, as president, the world, speaking on issues important to ABA members. I’ve spoken to more than 65 state, local and specialty bar groups; delivered commencement speeches and lectures to some 35 law schools; visited nine countries; been interviewed by hundreds of media; and addressed as many ABA entities, law firms, corporations, business groups, service clubs, legal aid societies and judicial conferences as humanly possible.
From ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange to attending the U.S. Supreme Court argument on Grutter v. Bollinger to meeting with President Bush about federal judicial vacancies, it has been an electrifying year.
The three initiatives undertaken during my term were tremendously successful. Both the Conference on Diversity and the Managing Partner and General Counsel Leadership Summit brought together CEOs and general counsel of major corporations, law firm managing partners and chairpersons, law school deans, university and college presidents, and leaders of various bar associations to ensure that we continue to not only increase diversity but also to promote and retain women and racial and ethnic minorities in top positions of the profession.
The ABA Commission on the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, among its many programs, held an event at Wayne State School of Law and partnered with the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to host a seminar featuring legal luminaries discussing Brown’s legacy. Moreover, tens of thousands of students nationwide joined in Dialogues on Brown v. Board. I’m proud of these programs and thank all ABA members, staff and co-sponsoring organizations that turned these events into hits.
I leave knowing that the association is sound and the profession more respected. The ABA has continued to staunchly defend the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession. And we protect citizens’ freedoms and work to improve the justice system. While many would denigrate our profession, without lawyers providing their time and expertise—most often free of charge—much good in this world would never be accomplished.
Lawyers are our society’s ultimate volunteers and public servants. There is not a chamber of commerce, battered women’s shelter, symphony orchestra, Boys & Girls Club, church, synagogue, mosque or nonprofit board that does not have lawyers from the community intimately involved.
I now return to my place as chairman of the outstanding law firm of Dickinson Wright to resume full-time work in complex litigation and appellate practice.
Equally as important, I look forward to quiet dinners with my family and improving my golf game.
Thank you to all those who hosted me throughout my presidency. I am grateful for your hospitality and impressed with the work you do on behalf of our great association and profession.
God bless and Godspeed.