By Phil Isenbarger, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP
As the IndyBar’s representative to the American Bar Association (ABA), I sit in the House of Delegates. Members of the House are called upon to present, review and vote on Resolutions that form ABA policy for our profession.
As lawyers, we focus on problems. We are called upon to find solutions. Often we are compensated handsomely with dollars for our assistance in these efforts. Just as often, lawyers are compensated simply in the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped find solutions to the problems of our clients, our profession and our society.
However, it seems to me, that lawyers are much too often mired in thoughts that our society is hopelessly “divided,” and that leads the public to believe the legal profession is of little help. For example, at the recent ABA Annual Meeting, we dealt with a wide array of issues that allegedly “divide” us: abortion and right-to-life, student loans, protecting the attorney-client privilege, federal court restructuring, immigration policy, incarcerations, expungements, educational discrimination, gun control and the impact of several resolutions on the First, Second, Fourth and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution, to name more than a few.
As we debated resolutions dealing with these and many other topics, hanging over the assembly was the recent news out of Charlottesville, Virginia, where clashes between extreme groups resulted in injury and death. This resulted in so many references to how we are “divided” that it was hard to focus on the actual work before us.
While in New York, I had an epiphany. However, it did not occur in the ABA House of Delegates where some of our professions’ most dedicated, accomplished and eloquent lawyers debated the “divided” issues of the day. My revelation occurred on a stroll through New York’s Central Park on a beautiful warm and sunny day. It was here that it hit me that lawyers have been at the core of all that is good about our current existence. It is lawyers, more than any other group, who have created and protected a society that allowed what I witnessed that day.
In the course of about three-and-a-half hours, we witnessed the incredible beauty of our democracy in all its glory. Locals and visitors alike descended on the park en masse, yet it was wonderfully uncrowded. We heard no less than 10 different languages being spoken. People of every color imaginable walked, ran, rode, played, sat and sun-bathed throughout the park. Surely the number of people with varying cultural and religious backgrounds was too many to count. Every socio-economic demographic could be seen, even if the determination were made without evidence other than appearance.
Wonderful music played by sidewalk performers could be heard about every quarter mile. Painters, sculptors and other artists lined the tree-lined paths throughout the park. Museum-seekers and picnic groups alike sought refuge in the park. We stopped to watch children play basketball. Moving to a volleyball court, we realized after about 10 minutes that all of the participants were gay. The park was full of families, friends, strangers, loners, lovers and literally every walk of life. At one stop, we were entertained by a troupe of young black men who performed amazing acrobatics and comedy that was sometimes politically incorrect. The crowd of several hundred clapped and laughed in such a fashion that all within earshot were uplifted. The group of onlookers were as diverse as the rest of the park’s inhabitants. Neither CNN nor Fox News was present to report on the politically insensitive comments (thank God) as they were stationed several blocks away at Trump Tower awaiting the President’s arrival in hopes that he would make a statement, any statement, that could be used to continue their respective dialogues on how “divided” we are. As we continued our stroll through the park, we made stops at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. As we exited the latter, a security guard was making sure that no additional people entered the building because it had reached its maximum capacity. In the case of both museums, I can’t tell you whether I was more fascinated with the exhibits or the buildings that housed them. But I was most impressed by the people who lined the hallways and stairs of those places and how they interacted peacefully and respectfully with one another.
In all the time we spent in and around the park, there was not one altercation, not one mean-spirited comment, not one rude or inappropriate behavior that we saw. How is it then, I wondered, that our society and country are supposedly so “divided?” The answer is, we are not. Because we as lawyers continue to defend liberty and pursue justice for all, the undivided togetherness we observed in Central Park is not just possible, it plays out in places all across our country every hour, every day. The fact that we take it for granted or the fact that it is not “newsworthy” makes it no less true.
Our mystery tour through Central Park intentionally concluded near the site of John Lennon’s tragic murder outside The Dakota, but not before a walk through the area now dedicated in the park to him and named “Strawberry Fields.” Again, it struck me as to why we are, in fact, not divided at all, but rather live in a magical, melting pot masterpiece. The reason is, of course, because “all you need is love”... and lawyers.