President's Column ~ November/December 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013
Posted by: Stephanie McGee
Thomas H. Davis, Jr.
Tenth J.D. Bar President and Wake County Bar Association
This is my last column as President of the Wake County Bar Association and the 10th Judicial District Bar. As I end my term, I would like to share a couple of observations. First, it has been my honor to lead our two professional organizations. I have enjoyed every minute of my term. I thank you, the members of our Associations, for allowing me the privilege of serving.
I have especially enjoyed working with the many fine members of our profession I would not otherwise have known but for this office. I must single out our Director, Whitney von Haam and her excellent staff, for making me look more efficient and organized than I am. I must also recognize the support provided to me by our incoming President, Gray Styers. You chose well, and I look forward to his leadership.
Secondly, current events have reinforced my opinion society is best served if attorneys are fully involved in political dialogue and civic leadership. From the shutdown in Washington, caused by both parties refusing to speak to each other, to ‘‘Moral Monday’’ demonstrations and counter demonstrations, our state and national leadership appear to have abandoned the concept of the honorable opposition. Instead of considering whether the opposing side may also have the best interests of society in mind (just a different method of arriving at it), the opposition is treated as an enemy to be publicly disparaged and derided. Political rhetoric which equates disagreement with evil intent and demonizes those who disagree is not new. What is new is the pervasiveness of this damaging rhetoric. The ugliness of our political discourse leads citizens to distrust and lose respect for our legal and governmental institutions. I believe we have arrived at this sad state, in part, because of a lack of attorney participation in elective government at the local, state and national level. Attorneys, with their knowledge of the law and sense of professionalism, can help provide the stabilizing influence needed for civilized political discourse and decision-making.
In his recent appearance at the Bridge-the-Gap Program for recent admittees to the Wake County bar, former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, Jr. urged all new attorneys to consider running for public office. Our political system, he argued, needs the participation of individuals well-grounded in legal concepts as well as inappropriate professional demeanor. It is important that our political institutions operate as our legal ones are supposed to: fight the good fight against your opponent with as much skill and effort as you possess; recognize your opponent must do the same; remember the purpose of the dispute is to lead to some conclusion; and, in the end, remain respected colleagues and friends. It does not matter whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or have other political leaning, your participation in the process, as a member of our profession, can only make our system better, stronger and more civil.
My grandfather was a ‘‘yellow dog Democrat,’’ truly a man who would vote for a yellow, cur dog aslong as it was on the Democratic ballot. The summer following my first year of law school, I went to his houseevery Saturday morning. Approaching his ninetieth decade, he was slowly succumbing to cancer. He had lost the strength and energy to work in his yard, so I came over to mow and rake. After I finished working, we ate lunch together on the front porch and drank sweet tea. We would talk and listen to the baseball ‘‘Game of the Week’’ on the radio.
One Saturday afternoon, our conversation turned to politics. It was the summer of the Watergate hearings. I asked my grandfather whom he thought was the greatest President during his lifetime. My grandfather did not hesitate. ‘‘Why, that would be Roosevelt of course,’’ he said. I told him I could certainly understand why and agreed with him. Roosevelt had pulled our country out of the Great Depression and successfully led our nation through World War II. ‘‘Yes, Franklin Roosevelt was a great President,’’ my Grandfather said, ‘‘but actually I was talking about his cousin, Teddy. Now Colonel Roosevelt was the greatest President I have ever known, and I would have voted for him too, if he hadn’t been a Republican.’’ This was true respect for an honorable opponent. WBF