A Tale of Two Cities
Since the last Bar Journal went to print, we have
experienced two disparate and significant events that could define our
nation and who we are as a country. Fortunately, we can make a conscious
decision about the path we choose to take.
The events of August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, could have happened here or in any number of places in America. Those events put on display the very worst behavior possible in a land where free speech and freedom of assembly are held sacred. The hatred, the venomous speech, and the violence were just a part of the problem. The content was worse.
Do we really want to re-litigate issues settled decades ago? Are we as people content to allow the bigotry and the anti-Semitism we fought hard to move past to once again be tolerated?
President Tom Vick with lawyers, law students, and paralegals
at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on September 3.
In September, I took part in a celebration of the life and work of retired Judge L. Clifford Davis in Fort Worth. He fought side by side with the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall to bring an end to discrimination in our schools. His cases ended segregation in Fort Worth and Mansfield classrooms. He was a trailblazer for civil rights and the first appointed African-American judge to preside over a district court in Tarrant County.
As I spent the evening with lawyers who have benefited from Judge Davis’ struggles, who have followed in his path and practice law in an arena now possible because of his sacrifices, I was overwhelmed by a constant, unsettling feeling that some in this country want to turn that clock back; that his work would be for naught.
The other seminal event of the past month was Hurricane Harvey. I need not recite the devastation it brought. But from that storm came a ray of hope.
Like many of you, I was glued to the television for days watching the heroics of ordinary citizens helping their fellow human beings. Sometimes saving lives; sometimes saving their most precious possessions. What we all saw in those days was selfless demonstration of humanity and kindness. No one saving a life inquired about the victim’s nationality, immigration status, religion, or political beliefs. They helped their neighbors, and often strangers, in a time of need.
I witnessed the same spirit in the shelters in Houston, where I met lawyers, paralegals, and law students all present on a holiday weekend to help Houstonians with the legal issues essential to their lives. (For an update on current volunteer needs and opportunities, click here.)
So, we are left with the decision about which path we will take. Will we decide to retreat to the dark days of our past when hatred and discrimination ruled the day? Or will we embrace the spirit of the Texans along the streets and bayous of Houston and throughout the Gulf Coast region who decided we were better than that—and who were willing to sacrifice their comfort and well-being for the greater good.
There is only one path forward. Lawyers historically have protected the honor and dignity of our nation. I am confident we will continue to do so.
President, State Bar of Texas