DAYL President’s Page

Turning Back Towards One Another

February 2019

At the DAYL Foundation’s annual Fellows reception last summer, Foundation Chair Justin Gobert and Foundation Trustees Leslie Chaggaris and Rebekah Brooker produced an outstanding video presentation about the Foundation’s record-number of beneficiaries. It was a wonderful celebration of 30 years of hard work to build the Foundation into what it is today– a reliable reservoir of hope and support for dozens of Texas non-profits that provide legal services to children, women, victims, the exploited and bullied, and countless others in need of legal advocacy. The video recounted one of our Foundation’s esteemed beneficiaries that provides legal support to Muslim women and girls suffering from family violence, lack of access to education, or lack of access to health resources. When this portion of the video played, one attendee reportedly turned their back to the screen, shook their head, and said to their neighbors in the crowd, “I just can’t watch” out of some disagreement with the group or its mission.

We see stuff like this on the news and think it is happening miles away from us. The reality is, however, that it is in vogue to turn your back to those you may disagree with. Government shutdowns, echo-chamber media sources, and our lagging national discourse are all evidence of this disturbing trend on both sides of the aisle.

But our community is better than this, and we in DAYL will not settle for this. In fact, we have not settled for it, as our Lawyers Promoting Diversity committee continues to host one of our finest traditions each summer– our annual Dinner & Dialogue– which brings community members together to have tough conversations about even tougher issues. DAYL’s Foundation and its trustees are proud to support organizations like the one mentioned above and several others, as these groups provide assistance to individuals that may be disenfranchised, mistreated, or exploited. These groups choose to lend a helping hand despite any potential differences of opinion, religion, politics, circumstances or background. They help without regard for these factors.

But we can always do more in our own lives to pull people closer together. Young lawyers have a role in beating back this darkness– in thinking through fear, in rising above prejudice, and in leading others in our continued pursuit of a more perfect union. We are problem solvers. Surely, we can do better than turning our back to an idea, a person, or a cause we disagree with. In fact, we are trained to anticipate adverse opinions and facts ahead of time, and to consider them, not dismiss or ignore them.

Leading others to a greater understanding, whether by active engagement or by example, is our responsibility. Empathy is a part of our professional acumen, and it’s our duty to spread it. We must help our neighbors remember that you can understand another person’s position, or at least listen to it, without belittling it, shunning it, or even agreeing with it!

This month, Black History Month reminds us to consider how we can better promote diversity, spread understanding and compassion, and raise our collective kindness and generosity to one another. This means more than blasting clichés and quotes out on Facebook– this means actually turning to our neighbors with whom we disagree, listening, and trying to work through our differences in the best way we can. Because turning our backs to each other and towards our respective echo-chambers won’t solve anything.

Our opportunity to combat frustration, cynicism, and exasperation stands before us. Let us all remember that as we #BuildDAYL this year, we are also building our community and propelling all of us toward greater unity, compassion, and understanding.