When the Honorable Ronald Ramsey passed the chair’s gavel to me during the Annual Meeting, I felt so many dichotomies of emotions, such as joy stimulated by a new professional challenge and nervousness brought on from a national spotlight and new leadership responsibilities. While these may be common sentiments shared across time and rank among ABA leaders, there were others like uncertainty and hopefulness that seem undeniably connected to this era of the coronavirus, its ever-evolving variants and our responding innovations and fits of starts and stops.
The still raging coronavirus pandemic caused my succession to occur remotely over Zoom rather than in a hotel conference room filled with our members, special guests and executive committee in Toronto. I was determined that this novel distance between us during such a vaulted occasion would not be emotionally or even symbolically deflated so I wore my sequined, American flag motific heels that I had planned to wear in Toronto anyway, and they gave me an instant boost even though my legs were crossed under my office desk and invisible until I slipped them off and held them up to the camera lens for others to observe my ABA team spirit in play.
Thankfully, the hybrid format afforded those of us willing to mask up, and keenly seeking some form of personable contact unassisted by electronic devices, to travel to Chicago for the final days of the meeting. I arrived in time to attend President Reginald Turner’s reception festivities and the House of Delegates voting sessions in Chicago. For me, it was a celebratory sojourn and a long-anticipated opportunity to connect with fellow members after a year of conference calls, Zoom meetings and Virtual Midyear Meeting.
More than anything, the ABA is an association of like-minded people, who are committed to core values like equality under the law and the positivity of diversity and inclusion, and being in the presence of such people and the exchange of a kaleidoscopic range of ideas and experiences with them, through informal chats and networking, as much as our CLE presentations, inspires me and makes me a better judicial officer and leader. Therefore, the format offered a customizable matrix of access and protection on a personal scale, making it ideal for where we were, relative to our pandemic concerns, and what we needed at the time, in terms of interpersonal assembly. Today’s leaders whether they are chairs, committee leaders or engaged members will undoubtedly benefit from the institutional knowledge and lamps of tried and true organizational wisdom they have inherited, but their responsibilities to excavate and chronicle new pathways of connections and purpose, will add much to the ABA’s lesson books on resiliency, resourcefulness and rising to unforeseeable challenges, which will keep the wheels of justice turning and moving in the right direction even during the most precarious public health crisis of our times.
Dichotomies and dualities abound in nature, sometimes as precursors to anticipated unifications or renascent renewals like when a root system sprouts a stem that becomes a tree. Sometimes two parts never become one, they persist on separate tracks as is the case with the sagittal and coronal planes of the body that ever divide our right and left, and front and back, sides. Given the highly dynamic nature of the world we find ourselves inhabiting at this time, a dualistic theme of recovery and renewal appealed to me the most as a mission for the year ahead. According to the dictionary, recovery denotes the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost and renewal means replacing or repair of something that is worn out or broken. During my tenure, it is my ardent aspiration that we can recover those aspects of being, individually and institutionally, that reclaim our commitment to public access to justice, and renew judicial approaches to fair and equitable outcomes for all. There is a Nicaraguan proverb that epitomizes the essence of our endeavor, “You make a road by walking on it.”