By Ona Alston Dosunmu
Yay! It’s summer. For me that means getting out on my bike. My bicycle was one of the first items I shipped to my new home in Sacramento and one of the first items I received. Of course, I had every intention of riding back in January, but life happened. I finally went for my first ride over the long Memorial Day weekend. There’s something exhilarating about discovering a new city on two wheels and my May ride did not disappoint. It was also sobering.
Unbeknownst to me, I chose a route—the American River Trail—that runs straight through an encampment of homeless people. I’ve read the news and seen the statistics about California being the epicenter of income inequality and homelessness in America. And I’ve seen people living in tents and makeshift shelters near the train tracks between Sacramento and San Francisco. Nonetheless, seeing it up close and personal along the American River was shocking. It reminded me of how fortunate we are. Yes, fortunate to have roofs over our heads but also fortunate to be members of a profession that is well-positioned, perhaps even best-positioned, to address social ills like homelessness, poverty, income inequality, discrimination and other challenges that prevent our nation from achieving its ideals and some of the individuals who live within our borders from achieving their full potential.
I have attended the meetings of all but two section executive committee sections. Like snowflakes and children, each section is different and special in its own way but one thing each and every section has in common is a deep, genuine and sincere desire to somehow improve the world we live in. Some executive committees passionately debated legislative proposals and their likely impact on those whom the law in question is intended to protect. Many in the Trusts and Estates Section, for example, are deeply involved in issues facing people of diminished capacity, not to mention protecting seniors against exploitation. Some executive committees discussed detailed plans to mentor the next generation of lawyers in their field and the Litigation Section is focused on the needs of veterans. Most litigants in family law matters are self-represented. The Family Law Section has confronted this phenomenon by developing a video series to assist self-represented litigants. The Business Law Section proactively develops relationships with affinity bar associations to improve its own diversity and the Labor and Employment Section had a lively discussion about how to best conduct internal investigations in a manner that’s fair to both sides and achieves justice by facilitating the termination of serial harassers. These are but a few examples of the myriad ways in which the California Lawyers Association, acting through its sections, is using the awesome power vested in the profession of law to help make their communities, the state of California and, indeed, the world, a better place to be. I am extraordinarily proud to be associated with this vitally important work.