Growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, I fondly remember participating in the Mayor’s Teen Volunteers summer program—a program comprising middle-school-aged students from the community who are personally selected by city officials to volunteer as employees at various local businesses. The “MTVs,” as we were so fondly called, were afforded the unique opportunity to gain invaluable firsthand working world experience in an effort to foster a strong work ethic and instill a desire to be productive community citizens. The program also emphasized the importance of community service and improvement.
As a program member I recall receiving (and likely still have somewhere) my official Mayor’s Teen Volunteers t-shirt, which bore a quote from one of the most important figures in American history:
“Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
While I understood the importance of the quote as a middle-school child, it would not truly resonate with me until I later learned the history of the Civil Rights movement and the importance of sacrificing one’s self and time for a better cause. As the Leadership Fellows Class of 2013 begins its call to service, this quote rings even more true. The Leadership Fellows were all selected to serve in a leadership capacity within the American Bar Association to continue fostering and promoting the competent practice of law, advocating for clients and providing them a right of access to the courts, and bettering ourselves and the practice of law through service.
The Leadership Fellows program is a component of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the ABA Section of Litigation. While the Leadership Fellows will certainly assume and carry out leadership roles within several of the committees in the Section, it is critical that our service also convey the message of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee—a committee whose title is as powerful as its purpose. Diversity is essential to the legal profession. Not only does it provide a variety of perspectives from which to assess and resolve a problem, but it also fosters open-mindedness from discourse with persons of varied backgrounds.
I believe that while the Leadership Fellows program is relatively new that the process toward true inclusion has begun in earnest. As an example, my short tenure as a fellow has been rewarding. My mentor is Judge Michelle Childs, the cochair of the Trial Evidence Committee. As a result, of getting involved immediately, I have the honor of serving as cochair of the Roundtables subcommittee. Finally, I realize that there may be glitches that occur as we travel this road of true inclusion, however, it is a road that is certainly worth traveling.
—André B. Caldwell, Crowe & Dunlevy, Oklahoma City, OK