There is an old expression: May you be cursed to live in interesting times. In my 63 years, I never have seen anything like the COVID-19 crisis. Over the last two weeks we have seen not just daily but hourly changes in how we live. When we decided to close the Belo on March 12, I thought we were ahead of the curve. But just hours later, officials declared a state of emergency in Dallas County.
As I write this article on March 19, every restaurant, bar, and gym in Dallas County is closed and gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited. Jury trials have been postponed and the functioning of our justice system is being challenged by the need to maintain public safety. Everyone is being urged to stay home for the next 14 days and practice “social distancing,” which no doubt will become the catch-phrase for 2020. By the time you read this article in a week or so, it may already be outdated.
In the midst of this chaos, we are in an election year. Rarely has our country been more divided. Many people meet someone and when they learn the other person supports “the other side” that ends conversations and the potential for friendship. My hope is that when we emerge from the grip of COVID-19, we will be more united as a community and country. Here is why I think that could happen.
My parents grew up during the Great Depression. They never said this to me, but they were very poor. To survive, people worked long hours for little money. Putting food on the table and having shelter was something most people could not take for granted. My parents were the toughest people I have known.
On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and America joined World War II. The country united in the fight against the Axis powers. When the war ended, the country remained united until divisions returned in the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. I was a kid then and remember thinking the country would burst at the seams. The one event that brought everyone together was the first Moon landing in 1969.
Fast forward to September 11, 2001. Barely removed from the divisive Bush v. Gore election, we still rallied together after the events of that terrible day.
I hope that COVID-19 will have a similarly unifying effect. It should—we all are in this mess together. At the DBA, we have 11,500 members of all ages and practice areas, employed by large and small firms, companies, and the government. But these differences strengthen us and make us the best metro bar association in the country. They also position us to be an integral part of the uniting process.
A few years ago, Justice Douglas Lang (1991 DBA President) and Michael Hurst (2018 DBA President) came up with the idea of the Day of Civility. It has been a huge success. Late last year, Justice Lang asked me if we could take the idea of a Day of Civility and use it to promote civil discourse in the community at large. We are moving forward on this idea in 2020. On May 11, the DBA Public Forum Committee will host a Together We Lunch program on civil discourse. This terrific program was brought to the DBA by 2017 DBA President Rob Crain. I encourage everyone to participate in this program—I promise you will learn about others and yourself.
The Conference of the Professions has focused on issues that are important to lawyers, doctors, and the clergy for more than 30 years. In 2020, the Conference will discuss the loss of trust that the public at large has for these professions. We will publicize the Conference when the date is set.
The important work of the DBA will continue. The Belo is closed through at least March 31. But we have virtual resources through Zoom to allow our sections and committees to meet and continue their work virtually. If you have questions about the available resources, please contact Alicia Hernandez firstname.lastname@example.org or Jessica Smith email@example.com and they can help. When the Belo reopens, we need everyone to come back. While we are all learning to adapt to virtual law practice and life during this crisis, we are better when we see each other in person as the Dallas legal community.
We will get through this and will be better for the experience. I look forward to seeing everyone back at the Belo!