On September 27, 2011, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) hosted a red carpet gala to honor individuals, corporate legal departments and law firms that are committed to diversity and inclusion.
MCCA’s mission is to advance the hiring, retention and promotion of diverse attorneys in legal departments and law firms. Since 1998, MCCA has bestowed its Employer of Choice Awards recognizing exemplary commitment to diversity and inclusion to legal departments from five U.S. regions – and these ceremonies were combined for the first time in the September 27 gala. Recipients were as follows: Northeast Region: Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Mark Roellig, executive vice president and general counsel; Mid-Atlantic Region: Altria Group Inc., Denise Keane, executive vice president and general counsel; Midwest Region: 3M Company, Marschall I. Smith, senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel; Western Region: Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Hyun Park, senior vice president and general counsel; and Southwest Region: UPS, Teri McClure, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary.
MCCA presented its first Lifetime Achievement Award to Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. (pictured above), a senior managing director at Lazard and a senior counsel at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. He has served on the board of directors of numerous Fortune 500 corporations and as a trustee to Howard University and DePauw University.
“Mr. Jordan’s record of achievement in so many different arenas can be matched by few others,” commented Don Liu, past chairman of the MCCA board of directors and general counsel for Xerox Corporation. “His business acumen is highly regarded. He has worked tirelessly in business, law, politics and education to create opportunities and improve the lives of countless Americans.”
Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO of Xerox, introduced Mr. Jordan with the following remarks: “MCCA has chosen wisely in giving tonight’s Lifetime Achievement Award to my mentor and friend. You are all aware of his enormous contributions to building and shaping diversity in America. In fact, Vernon’s life story is the embodiment of the American dream – from the public housing projects of Atlanta to the very pinnacle of corporate and political power.
“He has seen and done it all – civil rights lawyer; head of the United Negro College Fund; president of the National Urban League … Democratic power broker and kingmaker; board member of some of America’s leading global corporations … author and lecturer; champion of diversity and social justice – and I’m just giving you a few highlights!
“Our country owes him an enormous debt for his contributions on the national stage. But so, too, do the legions of people like me who owe their success in no small measure to this giant of a man.”
Following is a transcript of Mr. Jordan’s acceptance speech.
“Thank you, Ursula, for that wonderful introduction. You have a well-deserved reputation as a straight shooter, so your generous praise means a great deal to me.
“Thank you MCCA for bestowing this honor on me this evening. I’m proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in the ongoing fight for equal opportunity and social justice.
“And thanks to all of you for being here this evening to lend your support to a great organization exerting powerful and profound leadership in the crusade to make our society one in which ‘all people are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’
“Much of my life has been devoted to that cause. It has been not a sacrifice, but a joy, not a payment but a dividend. As I stand here tonight to accept your accolades, I am reminded of the words of Herman Melville who wrote: ‘We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads. And along these sympathetic fibers our actions run as causes and return to us as results,’ or, as my mother used to say, what goes around, comes around.
“I did not arrive at this time and place by myself. I stand tonight on the shoulders of a long line of political activists and freedom riders … legal giants and corporate statesmen … family and friends … people I know well and others I have never met. I am proud to accept your award not for me but for them. They make my journey possible.
“My only twinge of regret in accepting your award is its title – the lifetime achievement award. I don’t like the finality of that one bit. So let the record show that my work is not done. And let me remind you that your work is not done.
“As far as we have traveled together, our journey continues. I accept MCCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award not as recognition of deeds done, but as a reminder of promises to keep.”
For more information please visit the MCCA at www.mcca.com.