REMARKS OF STEWART D. AARON,
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT, N.Y. COUNTY LAWYERS’ ASSOCIATION,
AT PORTRAIT UNVEILING CEREMONY, 14 VESEY STREET, NEW YORK, NY
March 5, 2014
Welcome. I’m delighted to see so many of you here. I have many thanks to offer this evening. First, I’d like to thank Barbara Moses, NYCLA’s President for her kind words. My thanks also go to Tom Milch, Arnold & Porter’s Chairman, for traveling up from Washington, D.C. for this ceremony and also for all the support that he and the firm have provided to me, and continue to provide to me, and which has enabled me to carry out NYCLA’s mission. And I could not have carried out my NYCLA job without the support and assistance of Sophia Gianacoplos, NYCLA’s Executive Director, and my Arnold & Porter job without the support and assistance of Kelli Cooney, who is the Director of Administration for Arnold & Porter’s New York office. Nor could I have carried out either of my roles if not for the work of my long- time assistant, Mary Steinberg. Rachel Sard, the artist, of course, has my immense gratitude for composing such a terrific, life-like portrait.
Here in the audience are my parents, Henry and Norma Aaron, and my sister, Janice Aaron, I’m so glad you could be here. Also present is my wife, Christine. Thank you for your love and support. And thanks for my other family members, my Arnold & Porter colleagues who are here, and to all my friends and colleagues from other bar groups and elsewhere for being here.
As most of you know, NYCLA is a wonderful organization founded in 1908 as one of the first major bar associations in the country to admit attorneys who were licensed to practice law, regardless of their gender, race, religion or ethnicity. We often take this inclusionary spirit for granted, but recent events in Arizona and elsewhere remind us that we must be ever vigilant to stand up for the rights of all and to ensure equal protection of our laws.
NYCLA’s mission includes four important components:
Arranging for the provision by its members of free legal services for indigent, low income and other persons in need;
Ensuring access to justice for all;
Advocating for a strong and independent judiciary; and
Encouraging diversity throughout the legal profession
The canvas that is NYCLA was created and endures by the brushes of our nearly 9000 members who carry out the NYCLA’s mission daily. It is embellished by the strokes of the NYCLA staff who work day in and day out in providing services to our members and the New York City legal community. The painting that emerges from the collaborative work of NYCLA members and staff is something to be proud of — and something that will endure, even as our profession undergoes profound change that challenges us all. NYCLA is a place where we can all come together to promote the best in the legal profession. We may not always agree on all the difficult and complex issues that confront us, but so long as we work together in remembrance of those who came before us, NYCLA will continue to be a shining light here in the shadow of one of the greatest calamities of human history.
So, how do we do it? How do we move forward? From my perspective as a bar leader, I believe the answer lies in each of us being willing to give of ourselves for the common good.
We need to step forward and volunteer. Become involved in the leadership of NYCLA. Join a NYCLA Committee. Work in one of the many pro bono opportunities that NYCLA has to offer. During the course of my NYCLA Presidency, I often spoke of the singer-songwriter, Harry Chapin. Harry said, and I am excerpting from some of his writings, “Most of us operate in some kind of vacuum. We are all searching for a positive affirmation of our existence; some indication that it matters whether we are alive or not. … Volunteerism is a right, and we volunteers are carrying on the heritage of this country.” Harry continues, “I, therefore challenge the people here not to be passive or just pat ourselves on the back and say how wonderful we are, the whole job is to get more people to go out and do it — not only because volunteering is rewarding, but because it is our responsibility.”
If you’re an attorney, of course, it is an important part of our profession that you zealously represent your clients and work in prosecution of their claims or in defense of claims made against them. Like Harry, however, I challenge you to do more. Find something you’re passionate about. Find a client who cannot afford your services and represent her pro bono. We are blessed with a legal education and a license that gives us enormous potential to help those who are badly in need of help.
Let’s all volunteer and carry out NYCLA’s mission together. And when you’re here, in this room at future NYCLA events, and I hope you will be, my portrait will be hanging on that wall and I’ll be looking out upon you.
Thanks and I look forward to seeing you at the reception across the hall.