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TCL > May 2001 Issue > Heroes

May 2001       Vol. 30, No. 5       Page  23
CBA President's Message to Members

by Dale R. Harris

Baseball season opened this week. Why does a new season of baseball—perhaps more than any other sport—inspire soaring spirits and fresh optimism? Each April, even the Cubs believe this will be their year. And one day it will be. Maybe we feel renewed just because it’s spring and the cold greyness is behind us for awhile. Maybe it’s just a historical thing—after all, this is the national pastime. Maybe it’s because hotdogs and beer taste better at the ballpark.

Larger Than Life

Whatever the reason, baseball brings out these emotions in many of us. Baseball also makes me think of heroes, and the important part they play in our lives. More than a half-century ago, baseball supplied most of the heroes of my friends growing up in downstate Illinois. Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams. The names were magical. We even looked up to the big league "wannabes" on the lowly Class D minor league team that played a few years in my hometown. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Dizzy Dean hadn’t been gone all that long. These were larger-than-life men, and we dreamed that someday we might be like them.

Of course, we never were like them, but the dream helped us through those years of adolescence and the sometimes difficult rites of passage to adulthood. And playing the game, their game, taught us a lot about team play and hard work and practicing and competing and sportsmanship—valuable lessons put to good use many times in the years since then.

I wonder if kids today see sports stars in the same way? Do kids want to be like them, or do they only dream of getting what they have—money and all the other trappings of celebrity status? Are they still larger than life? We know so much more today about the human limitations of would-be heroes. (Think OJ and Daryl Strawberry.) Our heroes had blemishes and failings, too, but we didn’t notice them because we didn’t hear much about them. It was a more innocent time.

Dale Harris (top row center), one of the Coal Belt Teenage League Champs, 1952.

Have harsh reality and cynicism forever tarnished our views about heroes? Is it just too old-fashioned to dream? I hope not. I think we still need heroes. Kids need them. Grown-ups need them too. All of us need a role model, someone we look up to, someone we can pattern our own lives after.

Be A Role Model

Most of us had role models who helped us along our paths. When I was a young lawyer, Don Stubbs was a hero to me. He was my mentor and I hoped I could somehow follow in his footsteps. In later years we were partners, but I never lost my desire to follow his example. I know my professional life has been better because of him.

Now it is our turn, yours and mine, to do the same for someone else, whether it be our own children or others who need a helping hand. We can be a hero to the young lawyer down the hall who wants to learn how to practice law the right way. Of course, we should teach him or her the fundamental nuts and bolts of practicing law; but, more than that, we can make a big difference in his or her life by setting the right example of truthfulness, honor and integrity, professionalism, and civility. We can also show him or her, by our own example, that a productive, satisfying, and balanced life in the law includes time for giving back to the profession and the community.

Many of our law schools and law firms have programs that help us learn how to be good mentors. But let’s not depend only on our institutions to do this for us. Each of us should take the personal responsibility to be a positive role model. Our profession will be better for it.

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