The Atlanta Lawyer — April 2013 The Atlanta Lawyer
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Realizing The Dream: Equality For All
Lynn M. Roberson

Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers LLP<br /> <br /> The Atlanta Lawyer this month describes our upcoming Law Day plans. This year, among our usual community focused activities, we are joining with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the State Bar, and several other local bars to present an afternoon and evening event on April 22, 2013, highlighting issues of civil rights history and current issues. This program is particularly poignant for Atlanta, in many ways the geographic and intellectual center for civil rights progress in America.<br /> <br /> I remember going into my daughter’s high school several years ago for a parent teacher conference and seeing her American History syllabus. Half of what she was going to be taught over that year was my life’s experience! Civil rights, women’s rights, Vietnam, Watergate, the Kennedy and King assasinations, etc. Really made me feel old! As we review our progress and lack of progress toward achieving equal opportunity for all our citizens, let us refocus our efforts at continuing forward progress.<br /> <br /> I recall as a child spending a few years in beautiful Hawaii (before it was a state!) Among an incredibly diverse and colorful citizenry,which appeared to me at that time to be content and friendly. Much of that may have been that I was oblivious to the daily news reports as I am sure there were issues then of resentment among the native peoples and the Caucasian invasion and take over. But the people seemed generally happy and all lived together in peace. Perhaps such amity is easier to achieve when one lives in paradise.<br /> <br /> I then recall living in Maryland and attending a middle school with a significant number of African American students. One of the outstanding students was a young man who was extremely gregarious and very popular. He became our class president in eighth grade. At the end of the year, the class planned a year end beach party at a private beach club outside Annapolis, Maryland, rented buses and headed to the shore and the sunshine. I was confused when the buses were stopped at the gate for a time while the chaperones negotiated with the folks at the club to allow our admittance. Apparently no one had realized it was still an all white club and they did not want to allow us in because our class president was African American and was among the group of partygoers. Luckily, since our group had reserved the club for the day, they allowed us all in and great fun was had by all, but the event has stayed with me all these years. How unfair it was that the most popular boy in the class was initially unwelcome at the beach!<br /> <br /> I remember watching the riots and the marches on the evening news with my family. I watched the water hoses, the dogs, and the beatings.I could not understand how our citizens could treat each other that way for no reason other than the color of their skin. I mourned with many people when President Kennedy was murdered, and again when Martin Luther King, Jr. Was martyred, and yet again when Robert Kennedy was shot and killed before our eyes. At times it seemed the whole world was surely going to come to an insane end. But somehow, we got through it all and law and order took hold again.<br /> <br /> I was impressed with how the lawyers and judges were key to achieving the promise of full civil rights assured by the Constitution. What incredible courage many of them showed in defending the civil rights workers and challenging the segregated society. They risked their lives in the pursuit of equality. Many continue that hard work today, usually without the death threats, at least here in the United States. But around the world lawyers and judges continue to fight against tyranny in all its ugly forms. I continue to cheer for them and thank them for their service in helping to make ours a better world!