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From the President

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Luis J. Rodriguez
President, State Bar of California

Luis RodriguezThe beauty of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is that anyone – regardless of political affiliation, race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation – can draw inspiration from his words. This quote rings true to our profession: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

From the first day that we stepped into a law school class to today when we sit down and analyze the legal issues before us, we are summoned to use our critical thinking skills in a somewhat intense mind frame. The next step is just as critical. This is the articulation and materialization of our analysis for the benefit of our client or a cause. Unfortunately, some lose sight of the fact that character is also a critical ingredient to this whole equation.

Our profession has been criticized, ridiculed and undervalued at times. As a profession, we rise to admirable heights when we embrace the value of character. This strength in character plus our level of intelligence help us make a valued impact in our communities. This year, the State Bar continues to forge ahead to move our profession to those admirable heights. The Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform, chaired by former State Bar President Jon B. Streeter, is looking to better prepare new attorneys as they enter the profession. I have the honor of chairing the Civil Justice Strategies Task Force that will look at the need for civil legal assistance for low- and moderate-income Californians and the resources available to meet that need, commonly known as the “justice gap.”

Dr. King talked about justice; he talked about respect; he talked about hope. His words describe the potential that the legal profession holds as catalyst for action. When we are able to point to our actions, then we have moved beyond rhetoric. We are then able to prove our respect for the community. This is when we start nearing the goal of true education. Maybe this is one of the dreams that Dr. King had for our society. I like to think that it is.