Steven Shapiro gives keynote address at Hays 60th anniversary
Articles,  Blog

Steven Shapiro gives keynote address at Hays 60th anniversary


– Welcome, welcome to all of you. To state the obvious,
this is the first ever Hays reunion without Norman,
and I know it affects all of us profoundly and will affect the proceedings through the day. It’s also the first in the age of Trump. We need Norman than ever,
and we need each other our energy, our ideas,
our hugs, our tears, so for all those reasons, welcome to you. I have a couple of announcements. First I would like to
thank Helen Hershkoff for the wonderful new brochure which is a heroic effort
which Norman always did for us but Helen
has picked up that task and you should feel free to take copy. It’s a lot of the old favorite pictures but a lot of new ones as well. Going forward, Marty
Guggenheim has been serving as the acting associate
director for the last couple of semesters and
will continue to do so. Beginning next spring, the
ambassador Robert Vanleeup, otherwise known as Bob, is Bob here? – [Bob] Right here. – Oh, right in front
of me, will be serving as acting co-director with Marty. I officially retired as
of September from NYU Law but I’m gonna continue to
with in the Hays Program. Second announcement, Vanderbilt 202 is now the Norman Dawson seminar room, and it has a lot of nice
photos and momentoes that used to be in Norman’s office. It also has a collection
of Norman’s books, and you should feel to go
by 202 on your way from here to the program in Greeburg
or in the coffee break or during the reception, and help yourself to books, I’m sure there are some books that will have particular resonance, or just take books because
you would like to read them. Because they’re there to be taken. And thanks to Hays’ assistant Gail Thomas for putting that together. Final announcement, our mailing list, many of you have already complained to me about the deficiencies in our mailing list and I had a plan for fixing it up but we’re not allowed to do that, so what you need to do is
to send Gail Thomas an email telling her your proper
contact information and we will incorporate
it into our mailing list and apologies that we
tried last summer to make the mailing list better
but it needs so work. The main point of my getting up here is to introduce Steve Shapiro. We are so lucky to have
Steve as our guest speaker. Steve’s not quite a Hays Fellow, because he picked to go to Harvard. Buy had he come to NYU he
surely would have been a Fellow and a part of the wonderful
class that included Judith Resnick and a
number of other people. But even though he’s not a former Fellow, he’s definitely a fellow traveler and a collaborator of the Hays Program. After graduating and clerking for a year he worked for over a decade and NYCLU and then he moved over to the ACLU. For almost 1/4 of a century
Steve was the legal director of the ACLU, direct
supervisor of the staff, that grew from a handful of
people to legions of lawyers. He was counsel, named as
counsel, and co-counsel in over 200 Supreme Court cases and involved in, I’m sure in hundreds of others that weren’t Supreme Court cases, because the ACLU didn’t
think they should be or for other reasons. For many years Steve has come every fall to meet with the new
Fellows at our first meeting and he engages with the students, he tells stories about his career. He provides us insight
into the term just closed and the cases coming
up in the coming term, and he’s a very busy, important guy, and to come and hang out every
fall with the Hays Fellows is a gift and we’re grateful for it. When Steve retired a couple of years ago, my friend Kathleen Sullivan quipped, the ACLU without Steve Shapiro is like the Rolling Stones
without Mick Jagger. (laughs) Kathleen is the master
of the quotable line. As a serious Rolling
Stones fan I might have put it like this. The ACLU without Steve Shapiro
is like the Rolling Stones without Richard.
(audience laughing) because he’s every bit the
musician that Jagger is, and whip smart, and a really nice guy, and that’s Steve Shapiro.
(audience laughing) (audience clapping) – So thank you very much
Sylvia, and I have to say I did not know until this moment that you had retired from NYU Law School and so I think we ought to
begin by just taking a moment to give Sylvia a round of applause. (audience clapping) And now that you no longer have tenue, is that true, do you lose tender? I can correct two mistakes
you made in the introduction. Or one mistake and one
thing I wanna correct for the record. The mistake is, I am not
really busy or important any more, so if any of you
wanna have lunch or coffee I’m, just give me a buzz,
I’m free most of the time. And secondly I’m happy
to accept the comparison to Keith Richards as well as Mick Jagger but I do think I have aged
better than Keith Richards (audience laughing)
has aged. It’s a real pleasure and
an honor for me to be here. As Sylvia says I am not a Hays Fellow or NYU alum, but I have
certainly swum in these waters for a long time and the
river of Hays Fellows over the years has coincided with the ACLU on many, many occasions and
so I look out in this room and I see not only several
generations of Hays alums but a whole much of
people who I worked with and the ACLU and some of
whom are still working at the ACLU. I do wanna congratulate Helen and Sylvia. I assume they are the ones responsible for having chosen this
date for this event. It must have taken a
prodigious feat of forecasting months ahead to pick a day
on which the weather outside is as foul as the national mood, but you have succeeded
in accomplishing it. Because I have so much
respect for all of you and for the Hays Program and for Norman I would have happily
accepted this invitation under any circumstances. But the fact of the matter
is I increasingly wake up in a country that I know longer recognizee and don’t like very much,
and it’s especially nice to be in a room with so
many friends and colleagues and as Sylvia said, fellow travelers. Norman’s absence from this event inevitably makes this a bitter
sweet occasion of sorts. The Hays Program would
not exist but for Norman. It couldn’t have continued all these years but for Sylvia and Helen. Norman may have done
the brochure by himself, but for those of us who knew him, Norman, he was also a
master at delegation, and Sylvia and Helen
have done yoeman’s work over the years in keeping
this program going. Norman was, I think probably for everybody in this room, but I’ll
speak only for myself, Norman was mentor, Norman was a teacher. Norman was a career advisor. He was a friend, and on
more than one occasion he was a drinking buddy. I looked around the
room and I thought well, if Norman was here there
would have been wine on the table, but in fact that’s not true, if Norman were here there
probably would have been Scotch on the table, but in any event, I think we should not let
his absence go without at least some toast. My wife has told me over
the years that it’s bad luck to toast with water, but
water is what we have so I just wanna raise a
glass to Norman, Norman. And we should all go and raid his library, we may the last group of people in America that still read books. So when Norman and Sylvia
first raised the idea, or invited me, to come
and talk here today, I said to them as you normally
do in these circumstances, I said, well, you know,
what do you want me to do? What do you want me to talk about? And they said, well,
we want you to be funny and we want you to be pithy, and we want you to be depressingly candid while at the same time being
inspirationally hopeful. (audience laughing) And I thought, okay,
sure, and then they said, oh, and by the way, the last reunion the speakers were Ruth
Ginsburg and Adam Devey-Smith and I said, well that
reduces the pressure. But it is true that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a role model for
me as for so many others for many, many years, but not
for the reasons you think. She’s been my role model because for years I regarded her as living
proof that it was possible to get another job after the ACLU. And of course the job she
got was the Supreme Court, a seat on the Supreme Court, the job I got was a speaking gig as the Hays reunion. But for each according
to his ability, right? Anyway, in preparation for today, I did ask Sylvia and Helen
if they would send me a roster of all the Hays Fellows over the course of the
60 years of the program. And I don’t know if this
is generally available to all of you, I don’t know if all of you have had the opportunity to
go back and look at the names of people who have
participated in this program over 60 days, but it
really is I will tell you an extraordinary list, both in terms of the sheer talent,
legal talent that appears on that list. In terms of impact that
you all collectively have had on public
interest law in America. Norman was a man of many legacies. He was connected to many institutions, and could proudly take credit for the role that he played in building a whole series of institutions, NYU
Law School among them, and the ACLU is part of that list a well. But I honestly do believe,
based on conversations with Norman over the years, that there is nothing in his life that he was prouder of
than the Hays Program. And the fact that all
of you are here today, I think is a testimony to
what he and Sylvia and Helen and many, many, many others have achieved, and that you have fulfilled
in spades his expectation for what he hoped this program would be when he first established it 60 years ago. I did have another reaction
when I looked at the list. ‘Cause I was thinking about the list that the Federal Society
and the Heritage Foundation had complied for President
Trump about potential Supreme Court nominees, and I thought, wouldn’t the world have
been a much better place if President Trump had used this list to choose his Supreme Court nominations, indeed if any president,
Republican or Democrat during our lifetime had
used this list to pick their Supreme Court nominations. But alas that is not the world we live in. I’ve always regarded
myself as an optimist. I’ve often said, you can’t
do the work that I did, that so many of us did do,
unless you were an optimist. But the world is not in a
very good place at the moment. And it’s very easy to feel depressed and to give into despair. I was just saying to
Steve and Barbara Gillers that it’s difficult to
get up in the morning and turn on NPR, it’s difficult
to get up in the morning and read the New York Times. But the fact of the matter is
that despair and depression are self-indulgences that
we don’t have the luxury to afford, and one of
the things about working in an organization like the
ACLU is it had 100 year history. And one of the advantages
of that 100 year history is it gives you the benefit
of some historical perspective because if you wallow too
much in the day-to-day during the hard times,
you can have difficulty escaping the quagmire. So I put to myself, well
what did the world look like in 1958 when Norman began this program? And of course it was a very
different world in 1958. The Supreme Court was, and always had been for its entire history, an exclusive club open only to white men. Whatever you may think about
the current Supreme Court and I suspect that I know
what most of you think about the current Supreme Court, but whatever you think about
the current Supreme Court, there were three women on it. A Latina, an African
American, and Justice Ginsberg maybe right when she said
that the right number of women for the Supreme Court is nine, but three is progress and it is progress that has been made during our lifetime. In 1958 there was no constitutional
right to contraception, even for married couples,
let along a constitutional right to abortion. Women were largely treated
as outside the constitution, as were students, as were prisoners, as were the mentally ill,
and intellectually disabled. Brown versus the Board of
Education had been decided four years before the Hays Program began. But we were still 1/2 a
decade away from the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the
1965 Voting Rights Act. Mapp v. Ohio had not been decided. Gideon v. Wainwright had not been decided. Miranda versus Arizona
had not been decided. New York Times v. Sullivan
had not been decided. That’s Pentagon Papers were
more than a decade away. It was a very different
world then, than it is today. And then a went back
a 1/2 a decade earlier to when Norman began his legal career, and the formative experience
in Norman’s legal career. As I’m sure all of you
heard, ’cause Norman loved to tell stories and he loved to tell the same stories, but one of his stories which shaped his life and
therefore shaped our lives was his time as counsel on the Raymond McCarthy hearings, right. He grew up as a lawyer during the midst of the Communist witch hunt. And if you go back even farther and think of what the world looked like when this man Arthur Garfield Hays, your titular ancestor,
began to practice law in the second decade of the 20th century, there was no concept in
American law at that time that the rights guaranteed to all people, in the Bill of Rights were
actually judicially enforceable, they were aspirational. The idea that you could go to court and sue the government
for violating your rights is an idea that developed
after he began practicing law in part, due to the efforts of people like Arthur Garfield Hays. Not alone, but in prominent part due his effort and those of
others who worked with him. He was part of the defense
team in Sacco and Vanzetti. He was part of the defense
team in the Scottsboro Boys. He represented labor unions at a time when organizing union was not only a crime but it could get you shot in the streets. And I say all of that not to suggest that we ought to feel complacent about where we are, but to remember the sense of possibility. We are not the first generation of civil rights and
civil liberties lawyers who have faced challenging times. And the people who came
before us had a harder job than we did, because we get to build on the foundation that they created. There are a lot of obstacles ahead of us. You hardly need me to go through a litany of all of the civil liberties
challenges we face today, and there are people in this room who are far more expert than I am on particular areas of the law that are now under siege,
but whether you think about immigration, or racial justice, or criminal justice, or LGBT rights, or the basic idea of a free press, or respect for the institution of truth. We live in a universe that was frankly, unimaginable, five years ago, probably 2 1/2 years ago. I announced that I was leaving the ACLU in January of 2016, the
beginning of that election year. And my successor, David Cole
was chosen over the summer, and I then wound up
leaving in December of 2016 after the election,
before the inauguration, but I remember when David was picked to be the next legal director of the ACLU, I looked at him and said,
well you job is gonna be easy. For the first time in our
lives we’re gonna have a progressive Supreme Court, we’re gonna get to go
from defense to offense. Isn’t this going to be
fun, good luck, enjoy it. And of course it turned into
a game of Bait and Switch. That’s not the job he got and that’s not the country that we got. And so the question that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and in some ways the theme of the panels that you’re gonna have
to have this afternoon, is what are progressive
lawyers supposed to do now? What is progressive lawyering
supposed to look like? How do we give content
to the idea of being part of the resistance,
and what does be part of the resistance mean? And is this all about fighting
back and holding ground, or is there in fact, an affirmative program that we need to
continue to fight for? And I don’t pretend to know
the answers to those questions, and I wouldn’t pretend to suggest to you what the answers ought
to be for each of you. But I did want to spend a few minutes and I’m not gonna talk
too long, it’s lunch, you wanna eat, and have desert. But I did wanna spend a
few minutes talking about the things that I have been thinking about and had some more time
to think about since I have left the ACLU. And the first is this. We, the world of progressive lawyering, needs to figure out a way
to reconcile our commitment to liberty, which often in this context means free speech, and to equality. And that I recognize is
an issue that may have particular salience to me, because I spend my career at the ACLU and the ACLU is often on the
front lines of these debates. But it’s not just a debate about the ACLU. I truly worry that it’s a fault line around which a progressive
coalition can fracture unless we figure out our way
through some of these problems. And the platitude and
it’s a platitude that I often repeated during
the course of my career, is well we don’t get to
choose between free speech and equality, we have to find
a way to protect them both. And of course at some level that’s true, but it’s also true that
platitudes rarely solve the hard cases. And so my career at the ACLU
was funny in this regard. I began as a staff lawyer at
the New York Civil Liberties Union in 1976, Skokie happened in 1977. So Skokie occurs one year
after I start to work as an ACLU staff attorney,
but I’m such a newbie and I’m working at the
New York state office and Skokie is in Illinois obviously that I really had no
involvement in the case. Other people were working
on the case, not me. And then I leave the
ACLU in December, 2016 and Charlottesville happens
in the summer of 2017. So those two events, kind
of bracket my ACLU career, but in a very odd way, I
was not directly involved with either one. Last year I was asked to write essay for Stafford Journal of Civil
Rights and Civil Liberties, about this set of issues which I called Reflections on Charlottesville. And I have one NYU student
sitting in the room for whom this will seem
perhaps overly familiar, but I find as with so many of the problems that I grappled with during ACLU career, I find that the issues
are getting harder for me, not getting simpler as the years go on. And in this particular
case of what should we do about hate speech? I began by describing the four classic justifications that Thomas Emerson kind of codified in his book Toward a
System of Free Expression about why we have a First
Amendment in the first place. And I went through each of
them as I will now do briefly and I have to say at the end of the day it’s not that I didn’t
find any of them convincing or persuasive, none of them
sealed the deal for me. The first explanation that Emerson offers for the regime of free speech that we hold so near and dear, is that it’s indispensable
to a free democracy. You cannot have a
democracy with free speech. Democracy assumes an informed citizen. Sure, you can’t have an
informed citizens free unless you have free expression. And so democracy and free
speech are inextricably linked. I actually think that’s true. But it does not follow from
that, I think credibly, that democracy and hate speech
are inextricably linked. We out outliers in the world. There’s virtually no other
industrialized society anywhere in the world that
provides constitutional protection for hate speech. And it’s hard to argue that
they’re not functioning democracies, England
prohibits hate speech, it’s a democracy, France
prohibits hate speech, it’s a democracy, same with Germany, same with Belgium, same with Spain, same with Italy, same with Japan. They’re all democracies. So it can’t be as simple
as to say we have to allow all speech or else we will
lose our democratic heritage. The second thing Emerson
says is that while we protect free speech because
free speech is essential to individual autonomy, what
defines us a human beings is the ability to think on our own, to form our own beliefs, and
then to express those beliefs to the wider world, that is the essence of what it means to be human. And if we restrict
rights we are infringing the very idea of humanity
and individuality. And again I think there
was a lot of truth to that, but I think it’s a generalization,
and it’s over stated because there are other
forms of expression and they also say something
about our individual thoughts and beliefs and autonomy that are not protected under American law. We don’t, we all know,
Congress shall make no law, doesn’t mean Congress shall make no law. There are whole hosts of forms of speech and expression that are prohibited. And so the question becomes,
well why do we allow those to be prohibited,
but say hate speech is somehow sacrosanct. And then the third explanation, is that free speech is necessary
to the attainment of truth. The way we attain truth and
the way societies progress, is through the clash of
ideas and out of the fight emerges a thesis, antithesis, synthesis and the world moves better, moves on to a better place. To relate it to Dr. King’s
oft quoted statement which he borrowed from someone else, that the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. And I actually agree that that is true, but it’s not true. But even if it’s true in the long term, it’s not true in the short term. Or it’s not always true in the short term. And a lot of bad things can happen before you get to that better place at the end. And I think that it’s
hard to look at history whether ancient or current,
and say if we simply allow bad ideas and good
ideas to be freely expressed and clash with each other
in the open market place, the good idea will always triumph. Maybe, but maybe not. And then the fourth
thing that Emerson said, was he said well free
speech is a safety valve. It serves in two ways. One is, if you allow the bad guys to talk then at least we know who they are. And the second is, if you
allow the bad guys to talk then they blow of steam and
they don’t blow up buildings. Again, I think, sometimes true, but sometimes not true. And maybe once true, but
no longer as clearly true in a world with social media, where the danger of
allowing the open expression on hate speech on social media enables thousands of
people to find each other and gather in Charlottesville
where in the past that might have been impossible to do, simple ’cause they didn’t
know where each other were, and they didn’t know
how to find each other and they didn’t know how to organize. So I sorta worked my way
through all of those things, and I said well, that’s
a helpful way of thinking about the problem for me, but it doesn’t really
get me to a final answer. And then I said to myself,
but at the end of the day, maybe it’s four decades of ACLU DNA, but at the end of the day, I am still on the free speech side of this particular battle. I’m not willing to cede to the government the power to censor even hateful ideas, and I say to myself, well, why is that so? And for the answer really boils down to because I don’t trust the
government to exercise that power wisely, once
it has been granted. I don’t wanna give Donald
Trump and his administration the ability to decide which
ideas are considered hateful. I am more worried that
those powers will be used against the native
protestors at Standing Rock than I am than they will be used against white supremacists in Charlottesville. I get worried when I see
that the FBI has opened an investigative file into
black identify movements and they don’t have an
ongoing investigation into white supremacists movements. I say do you wanna empower these people to decide what speech is tolerable and what speech is intolerable? And my answer to that question still winds up being no. But I don’t find the slippery slope a particularly comfortable place to be. It seems like you should have
a better reason than that. And I’ve told the story many times, that when I went out on
my first date with my wife which was in 1978, we got into a fight about Skokie. I know this is gonna make
me sound incredibly nerdy, but yes, and it was her
fault, she started it. But we got into a fight about Skokie and I was making this argument, you know. You don’t want the
Nazis to march in Skokie but what happens when
they turn around and say that the socialists can march in Skokie then you’re gonna be screaming or yelling and how are you going
to draw the line then and why do you think
it’s gonna be the Nazis and not as opposed to the socialists who are gonna suffer under this program, and this argument went
on for what I would say conservatively, 10 or 15 years. And then finally, I remember this, we were sitting at the
dinner table one day and she looked at me and said, you know, why is it only lawyers
can’t tell the difference between Nazis and everybody else, right? (audience laughing) Who are the rest of
the world say the Nazis are over here, everybody else is over here and we could draw that line and the world won’t fall apart. And you know, there’s truth to that. A law school education expands our minds and closes our minds in different ways. And I was reminded of this quote. I always liked this
quote, I don’t know why. But it is a Justice Jackson quote and I can’t tell from where it comes, but Justice Jackson
said, “I for one do not “believe that the slippery slope “is without a constitutional toe hold”. And so I have been looking
for this constitutional toe hold, I haven’t yet found it, but I think we need to find it if we’re gonna have a honest discussion in this country about race and I think we on the left sort of ignore that discussion at our peril, so that’s one of the things
I’ve been thinking about. I also think that we need to find a way to reintroduce the idea
of economic justice into our constitutional discourse. Sylvia didn’t say this, but Helen and I overlapped for six years at the ACLU. We were associate legal directors together from 1987 to 1993. And I can’t say I spent the
entire years since Helen, but I’ve spent more time
than you would think thinking to myself, I should have really have listened to Helen, because Helen was the
canary in the coal mine that was sounding this
alarm a long time ago, and it’s impossible to identify a single cause for the rise of authoritarianism, whether it’s in this
country or around the world but surely, surely one of the
major contributing factors is the severe and growing
economic inequality. And that inequality is real, there are people in this country and there are significant
numbers of people in this country who have been left behind. Why they turned to Donald Trump for salvation is a mystery to me, but there is a sense
that the current system is not working for them, is
totally understandable to me, and palpable, and
obviously, there has been a lot of work done in the
progressive legal community around issues of economic justice. I know it’s gonna be
part of the next panel after we’re done with lunch today, and there have been legal services lawyers who have been out there for decades trying to protect the
rights of poor people. They’ve been forced in recent years to try to do it on a retail basis as opposed to a wholesale basis, and part because of restrictions that Congress has placed
on legal services’ lawyers and their ability to take
on class action litigation among other things, but
really since the days since of Frank Michelman
at least as far as I know, there has not been a lot
of talk about creating a systemic constitutional understanding that would embrace class
as well as other things, and so what we have done as a country, and what we certainly did at the ACLU is we tend to try to approach
those issues obliquely, and put it in language in
which we feel more comfortable and which the courts have
become more comfortable, and that is for often
to turn economic justice issues into race issues,
and it’s not a hard thing to do because there is
such corollary between racial inequality in the
country and economic inequality, but they are not the same thing. They overlap but they are also distinct and I am convinced that
we will not get out of the current quandary in
which we now find ourselves unless we take on the issues of class and economic inequality more directly and more honestly than we as a country and we as a legal
profession have done so far. I have been encouraged by the fact that there are now movements
now underway for example, to try to reconsider the
Supreme Court’s decision in San Antonio versus Rodriguez which said there is no fundamental
right to education, and poverty is not a
suspect classification. And there are some very
smart lawyers out there who are trying to think of ways to re-litigate those issues. Maybe that’s a way back
into that discussion, but the think it’s a discussion
that we need to have. The third thing is in a world with an increasingly
short attention span, we need to have a long term vision, and we need to be patient,
because things are not gonna get better in the short run, and things are certainly gonna get better in courts in the short run. The Supreme Court we
have is the Supreme Court we’re likely to have for
the foreseeable future and it’s not just the Supreme Court. I heard on the radio the other day that in the final two years
of the Obama administration, the Senate confirmed two
Courts of Appeals appointments. In the first two years of
the Trump administration Congress has confirmed 26 appointments to the Courts of Appeals,
and that Donald Trump is now appointing 1/6th of all
active Circuit Court judges in the United States. And that number is only gonna go up over the next two years, so these are not battles that are going to be
won in the next two weeks. Whatever happens in the mid-term elections they’re not battles that are gonna be won in the next two years. What I don’t think is true,
I there was an article by Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times the other day that some
of you may have read, and she talks about how the Conservatives had a long-range game plan, or are willing to stay the course to
capture the Supreme Court, that began 31 years ago when
Robert Bork was rejected as a Supreme Court nominee
by the United States Senate, and the suggestion was conservatives played a long game and
progressives played the short game. And I don’t think that’s right. If you read Simple
Justice, Thurgood Marshall played a pretty long game in getting to Brown verus Board of Education. Ruth Ginsburg, if she were here today played a pretty long and
slow and incremental game to get to the position we are now in where women’s rights
are at least recognized under the United States Constitution. And certainly those people
who’ve been fighting for LGBT equality would not say that their victories came overnight. They came after a very long period of time through a carefully thought out strategy and decades if not
centuries of oppression. So progressives know
what it means to wait, to take our partial victories
where we can get them, to be strategic and to be tactical, but we’re gonna have to
remember those lessons, because there are gonna be a
lot of losses along the way, certainly in the courts,
and we can’t allow ourselves to allow those losses when they come, to make us lose heart and lose faith. Which gets me to me fourth and last point. And that is, I spent
my life as a litigator, it’s what I did. But I think that Barack
Obama may have been right when he said that progressives
over-relied on the courts. I always resisted that at the time. The thought you take your victories where you can get them and I
still like us believe that. If opportunities exist in
court we outta take them. But a lot of this battle
is inescapably political. And human rights has
always been political. Litigation is never more than one tactic to advance what it is
ultimately a political of equal rights and equal
dignity for all people. And I think one of the things that we have to be careful about, is there is much to encouraged
by some of the resistance, some of the backlash that we have seen over the last year or two. We were just talking at our
table about how students at NYU and elsewhere are responding to the current environment. And I think the consensus
is that students, or at least the students that take our classes are energized. They wanna get out there and fight. But there is also a difference
between hashtag activism and institution building. And in the long run, if
we’re going to change the world we’re gonna have
to create institutions that allow us to change the world. And that’s one of lessons I
think we can learn from Norman, because Norman was nothing if
not an institution builder. And so, I used to often end my talks at the ACLU by quoting Roger Baldwin,
who is one of the founders of the ACLU back in 1920,
and he was still around when I first joined the ACLU in 1976. And I heard him speak several times, he was an incredible public speaker, and he used to say at
least in every speech I ever heard him deliver,
he quoted this line from Robert Louis Stevenson, he would say, it is better to travel
hopefully than to arrive. And then he would say in
this great raspy voice, he would say, “At the age of 90 “I am still traveling hopefully”. I know I’m not, I know I’m supposed to be sort of upbeat and inspirational. I have to tell ya, I’m not traveling very hopefully at the moment. But what I’m not prepared
to do is to give up. What I’m not prepared to
do is to stop fighting. And one of the things
that sustains all of us I think in that effort, is to know that this room,
and many other rooms like this are filled with people who I am confident are not planning to give up, and are not planning to fight. And one of the great things
about the Hays Program is being able to look down that list and look across this room and see generations of people and know in fact that
the torch can be passed and the torch is being passed. And so, I just wanna say in closing, that I intend to continue
to do what I can. I will do my utmost to have your back, and to thank you all for what you do, and to thank you all for being here today. I have, I can’t end by not
talking about my grandchildren. I have two young
grandchildren, 17 months old. In fact you’re very lucky
’cause this entire speech was originally just
going to be a PowerPoint of baby pictures, but I
was talked out of that. I want those kids to grow up
in a world that I’m proud of. And that’s on you. And that’s on all of us, and so I think we need
to learn from each other. I think we need to lean on each other. I think we need to stay together. I think we need to never forget that our values are the right values. I do believe that history is on our side, that history is not linear, it is two step forward and one step back and we are taking a
step back at the moment. But at some point that will change, and we are only going to
be able to take advantage of that if we do the hard
work that needs to be done to prepare for the moment,
and in the meantime we need to keep our fingers in the dyke. So let’s go out there
and do everything we can and let’s collectively
try to make this a world that would fulfill the vision that Norman had when he started this
program 60 years ago. So thank you all very, very much. (audience clapping) So I find this very, very hard to believe and I promise not to be insulted, but I think I was told that
I should take questions for 10 minutes if there are questions. So I’m happy to do that. We can start with last
night’s Word Series game, but we can talk of anything, any questions that anybody might have, what? – Tomorrow’s Jet game.
– Tomorrows Jet game. I’m a Giants fan I’m sorry. All right, this is like Quaker wedding. Oh no Helen, you don’t
get to ask questions. Your questions are too hard Helen, you don’t get to ask questions. – Please move. Now Steve might not have
known that Sylvia has retired and become professor emeritus, but this is something that
I have had to live with for months and even years. Now she has promised me in
the privacy of conversations in her neat office, that she
will stay with the program at least in the fall
when she’s not in Hawaii, but I want her to say this
in front of all of you. Okay, I want witnesses,
I want it recorded, I want a photo, okay
Sylvia say it, say it! – [Sylvia] I’m gonna be here. – Okay, all right. – I’m going forwards.
– All right. – [Sylvia] The Hays
Program and NYU Law School needs more people like
Norman and me and Helen. – Bravo, okay yes.
– The influence. – Now in planning today’s reunion I promised Sylvia that I would not make the reunion all about her. Now I’m a lawyer, it’s not all about her, it’s a little bit about her. It’s a lot about her. How can you celebrate the Hays Program and think about the challenges ahead without thinking about Sylvia, and of course Norman as well. And sometimes I feel I’m
clearly not to last person standing, there’s Marty, there’s Bob, I mean there’s all of you. But I will say sometimes
in this grim world, I think that I am the
luckiest person in the world. First I worked with Steve a the ACLU even though he didn’t listen to me and really didn’t recognize
economic inequality, it was just like how did
anyone have this blind spot. And I then came to the ACLU, oh no, I then came to NYU and
I worked with Norman, and Sylvia, and although
I don’t actually know many of the Fellows who
came before my time at NYU except say for Liz, who I’m
now co-authoring an article with and it’s a great pleasure, I do know the younger Fellows and I will say you give my
life energy and inspiration and meaning every single day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *