The Inaugural of Christina Melton Crain occurred on Saturday, January 24, 2009, at the Westin Galleria. Following is the address she delivered that evening.
Thank you, Frank, for that most kind and gracious introduction.
It is absolutely my honor and privilege to serve as the 100th President of the Dallas Bar Association – “The Best Bar Association in the United States,” as has been so eloquently stated on more than one occasion by DBA Past President Nancy Thomas.
But, there would be no 100 without a 99. And, so, I wish to take this opportunity to thank our amazingly talented, insightful, poetic, dedicated and committed 99th President, Frank Stevenson, for his absolutely fabulous job this past year as Dallas Bar President. I could not be more proud of someone than I am of you, Frank. You are a great friend, have been a wonderful advisor and confidant to all and it goes without saying that the Dallas Bar Association has been in the best hands possible under your leadership. Frank, your dedication to our profession and this Bar Association, especially with your theme of “A Bar For All”, challenged us, inspired us, and made us truly take a hard fast look at our organization, mission and standing in the profession and community. We will forever be a better bar association because of your vision and we are the fortunate ones for having had you as our leader! Frank, thank you for everything you have done for the Dallas Bar Association and all of us, not just this past year, but all the years leading up to your presidency. We will forever be grateful to you. In recognition of your phenomenal service, we have a certificate we would like to present to you.
Good evening everyone! Or maybe I should say “Peace!”
I want to thank each of you for attending tonight and sharing this very special occasion. Only second to my wedding, this is clearly the most memorable and cherished day in my life. It is such a remarkable honor not only for what it represents, but because it is my peers and dear friends at the Dallas Bar Association – YOU – that bestow this honor upon me. Words cannot adequately describe my feelings and thanks and it gives me great pride and is extremely humbling to know that with this honor I will become a permanent part of the Dallas Bar Association leadership – a unique and exclusive group of some of the most extraordinary people anywhere.
It is especially humbling to serve as your 100th President and it holds an extra special meaning for me because my late grandfather, Allen Melton, a Dallas attorney, Justice of the Peace, and the one who truly inspired me to go to law school, was a signatory to the charter of the Dallas Bar Association. I know he would be very proud and is with me here tonight.
It takes so many people to make an event such as this happen. And, I want to personally thank the following for their part in making tonight a reality:
I hope that each of you are enjoying your step back into the ‘60s – one of the most memorable times in our country’s history, rich with psychedelic color, vibrancy, dreams, peace signs, love, war, a desire for change, Volkswagen Beetles, and by far the best music of all time!!! There will never be another time exactly like it!
But there have been many analogies and references made to the 60s as of late. Americans are once again dreaming larger than life, freely exhibiting their desire for change, peace, love, ending of a war, and the Volkswagen Beetle has made a dramatic comeback. But I still hold fast to the notion that the 60s will forever have claim to the best music of all time – nothing will ever come close! Therefore, it only seemed appropriate to select the 60s as tonight’s theme for the year’s kick off.
We live in a time where people are patently aware of their surroundings and world events. We are full of dreams and hopes for a better world. We wish for the end of a war; for a resurgence in our economy; for better alternatives to fuel; for a world devoid of pollution; for improvements in our systems of education, medicine, insurance and criminal justice; and the ability for all Americans to have a fair shot at the American Dream.
But we realize that if we are to aspire to these rewards, we are the ones that must take action and not wait for someone else to step up. We realize that we cannot just sit back and let someone else take care of the issues if there is to be change. It takes participation from all of us to make it work. It is our responsibility to make the difference, because all change begins with each of us.
It was Anne Frank that said “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” And, on a daily basis, that is exactly what YOU, the members of the Dallas Bar Association, do! From the thousands of dollars you raise and sweat equity you provide annually for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, the Sarah T. Hughes Diversity Scholarship through the Bar None Show, the High School Mock Trial Program, Habitat for Humanity, the numerous law week programs and projects, and many other worthwhile endeavors and projects; to the hundreds of children, youth and young students and lawyers you touch each year through the various mentoring and tutoring programs; to the countless hours of free CLE and legal training you provide to the membership so as to continually improve our profession; and the other numerous phenomenal programs and projects you provide to the community and our profession – you help make the difference. And, as I look out over the crowd tonight, and at your faces, I am in awe of you and all that you do and represent and am again humbled to be YOUR president. It reconfirms for me the reason I became a lawyer – to be a part of a profession that has as its focus helping our fellow man.
As always, you will have many great opportunities available to you this year, including Law Jam 2, the Dallas Bar’s battle of the bands event, which raises funds for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, first brought to us in 2006 by then-DBA President Mark Sales, to be chaired this year by the extremely talented and extraordinary Martha Hardwick Hofmeister.
And, because the relevance of membership organizations such as the Dallas Bar Association becomes even more important during times of economic instability and crisis, such as we are currently experiencing, we will be providing programs and seminars focused on how lawyers can better assist their fellow attorneys during these challenging times. And there are many, many, many more incredible CLE, professionalism, ethics, community-based, and other volunteer opportunities and programs that will be available for you throughout the year, some of which I will detail shortly.
I truly believe that successes are not about one person – but rather about the “team of individuals” that helped create the celebrated success. This occasion is a perfect example of this belief, for without many, many, many people, I would not be standing before you tonight.
Although I do not have time this evening to introduce every person that has made a difference in my life, because there have been so many, please allow me to introduce you to some of the truly special people in my life.
First I would like to introduce you to members of my immediate family who were able to join me this evening and without whose support and love I would not be able to do anything:
Besides my immediate family, I have several close friends, colleagues and teachers that have had a huge impact on my life that have taken time out of their very busy schedules to join me tonight:
And there are so many more that have helped shape my life in a way that I can never repay – and I thank each of you from the bottom of my heart! Each of these persons has made me who I am today – good, bad or otherwise. And so many more of you here tonight – Laura, Martha, Kent, Nancy, Frank, Ike, Barry, Paul, Brian, Mark and Mark, Kim, Beverly, Tim, Barbara, Tom, Mary, Rhonda, Bob, Red Dog, Rob and Rob, Susan, Tena, Matt, Mary Elizabeth, John, Ken, Kandice, Monica, Scott, Sally, and the list goes on and on - are a member of this special group, because somewhere along the way, you have mentored, advised, assisted, coached, supported, encouraged, inspired, or in some way have contributed to me being able to accomplish and achieve what I have in life.
The concept of mentoring stems from early Greek mythology. As told by Homer in his epic poem, The Odyssey, Odysseus asked his trusted friend, Mentor, to watch over his household and guide the development of his son, Telemachus, while Odysseus embarked on his 20-year journey. Throughout Telemachus’ life, Mentor advised him and served as his instructor and role model. Mentor eventually prepared Telemachus for his own journey into the world, providing encouragement and offering to accompany him.
The ancient Greeks knew the value of an adult supporting the growth of another. And so have many others, for there are many notable mentor relationships throughout history:
*Socrates and Plato
*Plato and Aristotle
*Aristotle and Alexander the Great
*Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig
*Ezra Pound and TS Eliot
And even in fiction, we see mentors:
*Batman and Robin
*Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker; and of course
*Yoda and Luke Skywalker
Like the ancient Greeks, the Dallas Bar Association also has seen the value of an adult supporting the growth of another and for a number of years has participated in a number of worthwhile and award winning mentor programs, such as: E-mentoring through the Dallas Independent School District and the Transition to Law Practice program initiated by our own amazing Justice Doug Lang this past year, co-chaired this year with the remarkable Laura Benitez Geisler, which pairs newly licensed attorneys with veteran lawyers so as to assure that they truly learn the ins and outs of the practice of law. And, there are many, many more fabulous mentoring programs which you will find detailed in one of the brochures at your seat.
But, in addition to these worthwhile programs, I am bringing another mentoring effort to the Dallas Bar Association this year – one that is near and dear to my heart and that has become a life mission for me – one that I helped create during my tenure at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It is called “Amachi Texas”.
The statistics do not lie - seven out of ten children with a family member in prison will follow the family tradition to a cell of their own. Crime has a way of perpetuating itself, of forming a cycle, a chain that binds the next generation to a future without hope and without positive direction. It is not uncommon to find several generations of a family simultaneously imprisoned with inmates often meeting their sons and grandsons for the first time behind prison walls. Prison is not a place for a family reunion.
In Dallas/Fort Worth alone there are some 72,000 children of offenders, 50,000 of whom will go to prison themselves. And of them, 58% are under ten years of age. This is where Amachi Texas comes in.
Amachi is a Nigerian Obo word meaning “Who knows but what God has brought us through this child”. In other words, if we don’t give a child the chance to experience a different world, to walk a different path than their parent, we will never know what they could have ultimately become and subsequently contributed to society.
For just a moment, close your eyes and put yourself in the shoes of such a child. All you know is that if you are allowed to visit your parent, you don’t do so in a comfortable, private “home” setting, but rather in a cold, sparse concrete facility. You never get to go to the movies, shopping, a ball game or the like with your parent because they are confined. Your parent cannot attend parent/teacher conferences or other school activities that require a parent’s presence. Your parent never gets to attend your basketball game or dance recital. And, once it becomes known that your parent is incarcerated, whether intentional or not, a stigma is attached to you, ultimately making your vulnerable to feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, depression and even guilt.
The Amachi effort was begun by the former two-term Mayor of Philadelphia, Dr. Wilson Goode, who has devoted the balance of his life to promoting one-to-one mentoring intervention for children of prisoners through the Amachi program. He himself was the child of an incarcerated parent and from those humble beginnings went on to become the mayor of the 4th largest city in the United States. We were most fortunate to have Dr. Goode with us this past Monday as the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Luncheon to share his past and his hopes for our future.
Amachi Texas, the first state-wide Amachi program in the nation, was initiated in 2004 as a joint initiative of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, the Texas Workforce Commission and the One Star Foundation and is funded by state appropriation as well as private funds. Big Brothers Big Sisters, with its some 100 years of mentoring expertise, provides the exceptional mentoring model and we, the Dallas Bar Association, will be the very first bar association in the state, possibly in the nation, to participate in this initiative.
And I am so pleased to announce that Dallas Bar members Harriet Miers and Rob Roby have graciously agreed to Co-Chair the Amachi this year. Harriet, former White House Counsel and leader extraordinaire in so many other arenas, and Rob, a former Chairman of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas Board of Directors, have both had much experience dealing with the issues surrounding this initiative and we are so fortunate to have their leadership in this enterprise. And many others have also agreed to help out, including Al Ellis, Rob Crain, Paul Stafford, Judges Carolyn Wright, Mary Murphy, Tena Callahan, Martin Hoffman and Carlos Cortez, and many, many more.
I am also thrilled to announce that the Dallas Bar Association will be noted on a larger scale as a participant and partner in a City-Wide Mentoring Initiative which Big Brothers is instituting, graciously being underwritten by the Hatton Sumners Foundation, to whom we are most appreciative and grateful for their vision and assistance. We are so pleased to have joining us tonight our very own beloved Gordon Carpenter and Jerry Reis, both members of the Hatton Sumners Foundation Board of Directors.
We are equally blessed to have with us the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, Charles Pierson, whom you heard earlier give such an eloquent invocation, as well as the Statewide Executive Director of Amachi Texas, Olivia Eudaly. Also, joining us are other members of the Amachi Texas staff who have worked tirelessly to help make this evening possible – they include Darrin Jones, Shelby Rhoten and Lauren Hoffnagle. They will be available in the foyer after tonight’s dinner to answer any questions you may have and to sign you up to become a mentor. You will find more information about Amachi Texas at your seats.
So that we may adequately MENTOR THE FUTURE GENERATION, we have created the new DBA Mentoring Committee which will be ably co-chaired by Mary Goodrich Nix and Paul Stafford. This will give you, our members, a menu of mentoring opportunities and allow us to better coordinate and collaborate all of our mentoring efforts so as to assure that we are making a true impact. You have a brochure at your seat that details the various Dallas Bar mentoring efforts. I ask that you review it and sign up now and be a charter member of this fabulous effort.
And, many of you know of my love for shoes and surely you did not think that I would let 2009 pass without some sort of shoe endeavor. So, we are bringing you the “shoe soles for kids soles” initiative. We have partnered with TOMS Shoes, a company founded in 2006 that has a very simply one-for-one policy – for every pair of its unique light weight slip on shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair to an underprivileged child in third world country.
Our partnership has an added benefit - for every pair of TOMS Shoes that you purchase, TOMS will not only donate a pair of shoes to a child in need, but will also donate $8.00 back to the Amachi program on behalf of the Dallas Bar Association. Not to mention – you will get to add to your own wardrobe! Not a bad return on your investment! A splash page has been created at www.TOMSshoes.com/amachi. Once you click on the link you will be directed to the TOMS Shoes website and all of your purchases are immediately track able to the Amachi program. You have a card at your seat detailing TOMS Shoes and listing the website where you can go to purchase the shoes. There is also a booth located in the foyer where you can pick up more information tonight.
In addition to the mentoring initiatives, you will also be presented with opportunities to work with children within our juvenile justice system and other at-risk youth through the DBA Juvenile Justice Committee Co-Chaired this year by the talented trio of Paula Miller, David Indorf and Judge Cheryl Lee Shannon. Included with the other materials at your seat, you have been provided a brochure detailing several volunteer opportunities with the Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department, including a tutoring program.
As I stated previously, I became an attorney because I wanted to work in a profession that had as its cornerstone the notion of helping others; of inflicting change in lives and in the world, possibly even saving lives.
In keeping with tonight’s theme of the 60s, in the words of Mohandas Ghandi, “If we are to teach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.” They are our next generation, the caretakers of our world and all that exists within it.
Having just witnessed this year’s historic inaugural, I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural Address as we this year celebrate his 200th birthday. He stated, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphans – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
So, here is my challenge to each of you - your “call to action” for 2009 – get involved this year with a child, young adult, at-risk youth or juvenile - make the difference in a life - help create peace in our world. In my humble opinion there is no profession or group of people better positioned than you, the members of the Dallas Bar Association, to achieve this goal. We are all here tonight, successful and grounded, because we each had a parent, a teacher, a friend, or a combination of these along with many others that showed interest in us and our potential to achieve and become something worthwhile. And because of that simple fact, we are the lucky ones. Not everyone is so fortunate. But they can be with your help! I truly believe this and will watch in awe this year as each of you, with all of your many talents and your huge hearts, make this a reality.
As an anonymous person once said, “Each one of us has been given 24 hours in a day. What will you do with the gift of time that you have been given?” I know where my time will be spent in 2009 and I ask you to join me and the ones that need our assistance this year, especially our youth, so that we can share our gift of time and, in the vision of Ghandi, we can “[b]e the change [we] wish to see in the world.” Thank you very much!