Time takes on a different meaning as people get older. A child might complain about the long, tedious drive to the store three miles away. The older you get, the faster time moves. It’s difficult to believe that my tenure as President of the Burlington County Bar Association is already at an end. Last year at this time, I sought to inspire discussion of diversity within the Association. A country as ethnically varied as ours demands a clear understanding of the men and women who come to the United States from across the world in pursuit of personal and professional improvement. Over the years laws have been put in place to give open opportunities not only to immigrants, but also to the disabled, older workers and those in different religions, to name a few.
As the largest county by area in the State of New Jersey and the only one to stretch across the state, from the Delaware River to the Great Bay heading into the Atlantic Ocean, Burlington County serves as a microcosm of the nation. Burlington’s population is ethnically diverse, and it is imperative that the Bar Association embrace women and men of different backgrounds in the effort to ensure quality representation of all people, lawyers and non-professionals alike. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best in his “I Have a Dream” speech of August 28, 1963, that there must be a time when a person must be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Our nation has come a long way in the 54 years since he famously spoke at the Lincoln Memorial, but there can be no question we still have a ways to go before first- and second-generation immigrants receive the same regard as American citizens who cannot remember their ancestors who moved here long ago, and for those citizens in other protected classes.
Women in America have only had the right to vote for less than a century. Their place, they were told, was in the home. For some women, there is no greater satisfaction to be found than to provide for their families; however, being barred from the opportunity to move outside of the home proved suffocating for many. They fought the status quo and opened doors to opportunity, exposing the hard-earned truth that women can achieve greatness on par with men. The struggle to achieve equal pay continues, as women prove their prowess and ability in a world still dominated by men, but the progress made in the last 97 years is undeniable.
I was born in the United States to parents who immigrated here in the effort to improve their lot in life. I have experienced harsh treatment by peers who mistakenly believed I was foreign born. And I am also aware of the extra hurdles women have been subjected to in their pursuit of equality in a man’s world. Having been accepted not only as a member of the Burlington County Bar Association, but being given the honor of serving as its president for this past year, is an affirmation of the great strides our county, our state, and our nation have made towards embracing diversity and providing equal treatment to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or immigrant status.
This June, I retire as president of the Burlington County Bar Association. It is my hope that I have inspired a celebration of the multi-cultural nature of not only our own membership, but of the communities wherein we live, and the clientele we represent. Long ago, America was described as a noble experiment. That experiment continues to this day in how we treat one another. I intend to continue espousing open conversation about the questions surrounding diversity, and I look forward to working with our incoming president, Doug Heinold, as he continues to grow the Bar Association over the next year.
Thank you to everyone for making this year a memorable one and for all your support.