Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” When looking for a manifestation of Emerson’s reflection, one need not look further than American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard. President Hubbard has led the American Bar Association for the past year, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend time with President Hubbard, hearing his reflections on the last year, the practice of law, and life in the United States.
President Hubbard and I both hail from the South Carolina—I having grown up and attended college in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and he having been educated and practicing law in the capital city of Columbia. Our conversation started as most conversations between South Carolinians do: comparing collegiate affiliations. Many are aware of the rivalry between the Clemson Tigers and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, but I believe President Hubbard would join me in hoping that more people are aware of the fierce dedication the graduates of both schools maintain to making our world a better place. This dedication is all the more present amongst fellow lawyers. Although the president is much too humble to say so himself, I could not help but admire the compelling servant’s heart and the advocate’s spirit that he evidenced from the beginning of our conversation.
Our conversation quickly shifted from small talk and fond memories to President Hubbard’s impressive accomplishments. When discussing his time as leader of the American Bar Association, President Hubbard remarked that the best part is having a powerful platform to address the fundamental issues facing our legal system, both in the United States and internationally. He explained, that among other things, he has focused on the future of the legal profession, criminal justice reform—particularly with regard to sentencing and incarceration—the legal needs of unaccompanied minor children entering the country, and domestic violence. President Hubbard stressed that technological advances gives rise to innovative ways in which lawyers can use technology to provide greater legal services to those who need it most. He encouraged young lawyers to get involved with embracing and exploring technology as an innovation rather than a barrier.
President Hubbard and I also discussed the ABA’s Goal III initiatives. President Hubbard expressed that diversity and inclusive are critical to the ABA’s mission. “We have to make sure our democracy remains strong. That depends on the trust of the people and demands the talent of all.” When I asked President Hubbard why inclusiveness was important within the bar, his answer came without hesitation: “Because it’s the right thing to do.” To be certain, President Hubbard emphasized the talents and capabilities of all members within the bar, but he returned to his point that the most significant reason to include all people is not because of any particular advantage that might be gained, but because it is essential to view everyone in light of our “common humanity.” With regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, President Hubbard emphasized that “LGBT rights are important to our justice system.”
President Hubbard expressed that it was gratifying to see the progress that has been accomplished in this area, and commended SOGI for being a significant part of the ABA’s mission. He acknowledged “the LGBT community has suffered disproportionately for many centuries. It is time to eliminate this suffering and pain.” Despite his busy schedule, President Hubbard was also kind enough to participate in most of the events that SOGI sponsored at the Midyear Meeting in Houston, Texas. President Hubbard relayed that the anti-bullying roundtable presented a unique and valuable perspective that the Bar could follow to develop cutting edge and effective anti-bullying programs, and that he was gratified to see educators who love and want to protect children. He suggested we also include a concise guide for teachers and parents to use in the event that they observe or become aware of bullying.
President Hubbard added that the ABA’s involvement with the Stonewall Reception—honoring those who have made significant contributions in the area of LGBT rights and equality—sends a powerful signal. He regarded his attendance at the reception to be “such an exciting time,” and he was glad to see SOGI work to raise awareness of LGBT issues. Reflecting upon the award recipients, President Hubbard remarked that he admired the accomplishments made when it was a more challenging, harder, and dangerous time in equality advocacy. He commended the recipients for having devoted their time and talents in a sustained and powerful way to make life better for everyone. He hopes that the ABA will learn from the courage and example of the Stonewall award recipients, because “it has certainly inspired me.”
As one of the many high notes of his presidency, President Hubbard was proud to be counsel of record on the amicus brief the American Bar Association filed in the Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality case, pending before the Supreme Court of the United States. President Hubbard recognized the brief to be an integral part of the ABA’s duty to be involved in such a historic event, and he praised the brief drafters for presenting a compelling argument that highlighted the practical significance of the issue of marriage equality. He expressed his optimism that the Court will side with extending the full rights of citizenship to all, to include the right to marry. Looking ahead, President Hubbard believes the next challenge will be to confront implicit and unconscious biases that exist throughout society so that we can learn to work together and focus more on our commonality that our differences.
Personally, I am encouraged to know that ABA leadership is concerned and dedicated to the missions of diversity and inclusion throughout the association’s ranks, the legal profession, and the larger world community. I was honored to have the opportunity to speak to a lawyer whose professional and personal dedication to legal practice and community service speaks for itself. Surely, President Hubbard inspires us all to not only be what we know we can be, but to also exceed our own expectations in the pursuit of a more perfect union.
JOHN T. RICE
Liaison, ABA Young Lawyers Division