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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at a Luncheon Hosted by the Catholic Lawyers Guild in Boston, Massachusetts

1989-09-23

Thank you all for that very warm reception. Barbara and I are just delighted to be with you. First, thank you, Judge Nolan. It's got to be the classic introduction. [Laughter] And I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. It gets me -- I don't have to finish that high-calorie dessert. [Laughter] Thank you so much, sir. And I'm delighted to see Governor Mike Dukakis here today. Mike, thank you very much for being with us. Thank you very much.

And we have many other distinguished guests: Chief Justice Liacos of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. I understand the attorney general is with us -- Attorney General Shannon. And then of course my -- I'll never convert him -- but your senate president, Billy Bulger, over here.

I'm going to get in real trouble on this, but there is a certain nostalgia in the air. I understand that Police Commissioner Roche is with us somewhere out there. And former Chief Justice Hennessy and the former Mayor Collins. And then my friend, Ed King, the former Governor of this State, is here someplace. There he is.

We'll cut it off there except to say again to all of you our sincere thanks. Barbara and I are especially pleased to be with our friend, the spiritual leader of the diocese, Cardinal Law, a great servant of God.

For those of you way back in the back of this magnificent ballroom, I'll try to speak up. Cardinal Law warned me that the agnostics in this room are very bad. [Laughter]

We've enjoyed visits by Cardinal Law to both Kennebunkport -- down the road here, to our house -- and the White House in recent months, and we're happy -- very happy -- to accept when he conveyed your kind invitation to this very, very special luncheon. I told my staff to set it up for any Saturday this fall, so long as Holy Cross wasn't playing B.C. [Laughter] And one aide noticed that ``Red Mass'' was on the trip schedule. He pulled out a map and said, ``Is that anywhere near Boston?'' [Laughter]

And lastly, we're pleased that Governor Sununu is with us today. Like many young Catholics, as a boy John dreamed of one day becoming Pope. [Laughter] It was only after having eight kids that we got him to settle for Chief of Staff. [Laughter] And I'm glad it worked out that way.

Yesterday, the first day of autumn -- and it's the season of harvest, the season of change. It's the back-to-school and new beginnings. And it is with great respect and reverence that I come to you this day, the day of the red Mass, a stirring and deeply spiritual tradition. Today and tomorrow, men and women of the bar will join in solemn prayer across the country -- our country -- and around the world, gathering wherever civilization has been graced with the twin blessings of rule of law and faith in God. And the ancient roots of the red Mass are so intertwined with the earliest days of the law that its precise origins are, quite literally, lost in time.

Some say that this beautiful and inspiring ritual was first observed in 13th century Rome. Others say it began in King Edward's London, beneath the Gothic arches of the Inns of the Court, and still others support the theory that it began in Paris. Wherever the red Mass was first observed, we can be sure of one thing: A tradition that spans seven centuries was started when one man with an idea -- one lawyer or one priest -- stepped forward to act with conviction. The red Mass is a celebration and a renewal, a reminder to every lawyer and judge -- Catholic or Jew or Protestant or Moslem -- that yours is a profession dedicated not merely to practical results or material progress but to a higher duty and, indeed, to the public good.

Many years ago, one of my predecessors, a man trained and accomplished in the same profession as yourselves, found himself facing a crisis of conviction. Many Americans had come to doubt the very foundations upon which this nation was laid. And it was widely suggested that the early success of the United States was an accident of natural wealth. People said that the sophisticated problems of modern times required a rethinking of the democratic institutions of our nation's youth.

The President was burdened by a troubling question: Do the founders of our nation have anything to say to the present day, or is it necessary to start over on a new basis? The man was Thomas Jefferson, and the occasion, his Inaugural Address. And the response he made to that crisis is as forceful today as it was in his own age, for Jefferson understood that the essence of America lies not in shared real estate but in shared values, not in a common ancestry but in a common vision.

So, he spoke of the rights of responsibilities of free citizens. ``Every difference of opinion,'' he warned, ``is not a difference of principle.'' And he singled out one such unyielding principle as fundamental to our continued life as a nation: ``equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political.''

And the challenge that Thomas Jefferson delivered to his fellow citizens -- I repeat it today; I deliver it to you this afternoon. And so, I challenge you, as Catholic lawyers, not to give in to the dismay of those today who in error or alarm have wandered from the basic convictions to which our nation is pledged. I challenge you to rekindle and foster a love of justice -- American justice -- a justice that knows no boundaries of race and sex, income or age.

We're all born with certain talents or abilities, and part of growing up Catholic in America is being reminded of each person's obligations to use the gifts that God gave them. Perhaps some of you saw this amazing Notre Dame sophomore last Saturday: the ``Rocket'' -- Raghib ``Rocket'' Ismail -- not once but twice returning kickoffs for record-breaking touchdowns -- the best use of speed since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier.

Well, as lawyers, as advocates, part of your task is to use your talents -- to speak for those unable to speak for themselves. I challenge you to rearticulate those principles that are deeper than our differences -- the principles of equal and exact justice -- and that vision of free and responsible citizenship which forms our common heritage.

Here I may well be preaching to the converted. None of the judges I've spoken to ever complained of difficulty in getting a group of Boston lawyers to speak their minds. [Laughter] But communication, advocacy -- everyone here is uniquely suited for the task. By virtue of your profession and your faith, you are alive to the fact that if we are indeed ``one nation, under God,'' then our responsibilities do not end with simply obeying the law. We must actively work to extend peace, liberty, and safety to all our fellow citizens. As Saint Augustine said: ``While law makes us obedient to justice, God makes us agents of justice, doers of justice, creators of justice.'' I challenge you, as men and women of faith, to give voice to this justice. Do it proudly, with the courage of conviction. And carry justice to all of our citizens, especially to those who know it least.

We must devote special attention to the problems of those on the margins, those lacking adequate food or shelter, those addicted or mentally ill, those whose neighborhoods have been decimated by crime. And we must remember the unremembered, protect the unprotected, stand up for those who live in a world of pain -- the hungry and the homeless, the haunted and the hurting. It's not enough to give them justice. We must also give them hope. And part of this effort belongs in the courtroom, where prosecutors and judges fight to preserve justice and where private attorneys perform untold good through pro bono efforts.

Consider, for example, Operation Uplift, begun by lawyers in Minneapolis and now spreading across the country, its premise a simple one: When an attorney represents a client pro bono, the client is asked to do volunteer work in the neighborhood or community, pledging 1 hour of service for every hour the attorney spends working on the case. It costs nothing and doubles the good done by pro bono efforts.

But ultimately, to succeed, this effort can't end with the working day. The grassroots movement that we've called a Thousand Points of Light must reach out to America's hurting where they are, in the classroom as well as the courtroom, and in church basements, street corners and lonely apartments. And the bottom line is this: From now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include service to others.

This room -- especially this room -- is rich with shining examples of good men and women who have devoted their lives to service -- in private, in public, in the pulpit. Make community service central to your life and work. And somewhere in your own community there is an illiterate man yearning for the gift most of you have enjoyed since childhood: the ability to read. Somewhere in your own community there's a homeless family that needs food and clothing and shelter. And somewhere in your own community there is a scared little kid tempted to buy crack or join a gang, a kid who needs the love and guidance of a Big Brother. There are countless unmet needs, countless ways in which you can make a difference for the better.

For you who are senior partners, I urge you to consider community service by your associates in hiring and promoting decisions. And at the end of the day, let it be said about you that -- more than your record in court or the hours you've billed -- this was the way in which you touched the life of someone in need.

And finally, with particular concern, we challenge you to even greater efforts towards the protection of human life. Use your talents, your energy, and your professional resources to reaffirm the right to life as the most fundamental freedom.

The Jeffersonian vision of justice -- of peace, liberty, and safety for all -- has permeated our American understanding of rights, of responsibilities, of life itself. It is evident in one of our symbols, the American flag, but I want to look at something even more commonplace than the flag -- a single dime. There are three emblems on the back of the dime: an olive branch, a torch, and the limb of an oak. The olive branch symbolizes our longing for peace, our willingness to live by righteousness, not simply by military might. Next to the olive branch is a torch, the lamp of liberty. And beside the torch lies the oak, the symbol of safety, security, and of strength which guarantees them. And finally, in the midst of the three reads the motto ``E Pluribus Unum.'' ``From the many, one.'' We are a diverse people with many backgrounds, many challenges, many hopes. And so, I call upon you today, the Guild of Catholic Lawyers, to give voice to the consensus, the oneness of values which lives beneath the diversity. I call upon you, as agents and creators of justice, to help us bring about peace, liberty, and the safety we seek for every human being.

Thank you, Your Eminence, for inviting me here today. God bless you all, and God bless the United States. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:48 p.m. in the ballroom at the Park Plaza Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Joseph R. Nolan, president of the guild. Following his remarks, he returned to Kennebunkport, ME, for the weekend. A tape was not available for verification of the contents of the remarks.

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