“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.”
“Embracing Diversity - Leading by Example” was the theme of the 2009 Unity Award Dinner and Seventh Annual Bar Presidents Swearing-In Ceremony. More than 50 area bar associations united in the celebration of diversity by applauding our wonderful differences, and uniting in the quest to eliminate bias based upon gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, thereby ensuring justice for all.
This unique event had its genesis in 2003, when Jessica Arong-O’Brien, then-president of the Filipino American Bar Association, gained the support of The John Marshall Law School to conduct the first all-bar swearing-in ceremony at the law school. Through Jessica’s incredible vision and perseverance, this event has gained momentum each year, being nurtured by her and the two originating sponsors. It has been my pleasure to have co-chaired this event since 2007, and I have been inspired by the legal community’s commitment to advancing diversity through its support of this event as well as of the newly-created Diversity Scholarship Foundation, which is the beneficiary of the dinner’s proceeds.
Indeed, it is up to us—as individuals, as bar leaders, and as organizations—to champion a more diverse profession and to be catalysts for positive change. In order to engender that change, however, we must be the best examples of that change for others to follow. As leaders, rather than waiting for solutions, we have the ability to create them. As lawyers, we have the duty and obligation to work to improve the justice system, to prevent injustice, and to strive to achieve the common good. We must always remember that our profession is grounded in public service, playing a significant role in people’s everyday lives. As leaders, and as lawyers, we can work together to raise awareness of these issues, to envision a better tomorrow, and to take collective action to make that vision a reality.
The 2009 award recipients truly exemplify the “Embracing Diversity - Leading by Example” theme. Mr. Jerold S. Solovy, Chairman Emeritus of Jenner & Block, was the 2009 Unity Award Honoree. Mr. Solovy is a true leader in every sense of the word, and has tirelessly worked to advance justice, promote diversity and make positive and measurable differences in law and society. In addition, the two recipients of the 2009 Advocate for Diversity Award—Illinois Appellate Court Justice Hon. Shelvin Louise Marie Hall and Mr. William A. Von Hoene, Jr., Executive Vice President, Finance and Legal, Exelon Corp.—have recognized, promoted, and sponsored diversity throughout their careers. Each of the award recipients has made tremendous contributions to the profession and community, and they are very deserving of the recognition.
In a statement elegant in its simplicity—and also resounding in its accuracy—Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer observed that “Leadership by example is not the main thing in influencing others ..., it is the only thing.” Renowned humanitarian Mahatma Gandhi was also aware of the power of leading by example, and encouraged leaders to remember that “You must be the change which you want to see in the world.” Let us always remember these words, and do our part to promote positive change.
We look forward to seeing you at the 2010 Unity Dinner and Eighth Annual Bar President’s Swearing-In Ceremony this Fall! ■