I had the privilege of attending the Greater New York Chapter of ACC-A's "Stand Tall With New York" Special Reception on June 16. It provided yet again an opportunity to reflect on the tragedy of 9/11. It was billed as recognition of the efforts of New York area corporations and their counsel to revitalize New York following that disaster. However, it was in fact much more than that because New York is not only a microcosm of America, but also of the world.
It is well accepted that the city, nation and the world will never be the same after 9/11. That event brought home to everyone the dangers that will be faced if positive steps are not taken to address the roots of terrorism - poverty, ignorance and the denial of the opportunities available in nations like ours, including the benefits of the rule of law.
Tom Baxter, general counsel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, presided over a program that included a speech by Chief Judge Judith Kaye about the work of the family and housing courts. She referred to the City's 40,000 homeless (including 16,000 children). She talked about the need to address the fact that over 6,000 of the 22,000 foster children living in New York City are ready for adoption, but are still languishing in foster care. She applauded the work that MFY, another of the evening's honorees, was doing to serve them. Lynn Kelly and Sarah Wienkes of MFY discussed its adoption project in more detail, pointing out that Pfizer through its senior corporate counsel, Jean O'Hare, had spearheaded the legal communities' response.
It seems a long step from the streets of New York to the streets of Iraq. Ignored by the international community, its citizens lived for many years in poverty under a corrupt legal system that made it an ideal breeding ground for terrorists - only now are those who lived in islands of prosperity beginning to realize the price of this neglect. In our country, pro bono organizations like MFY play a vital role in addressing the needs of the poor and providing them with a lifeline to a better life. As Chief Judge Kaye pointed out, the failure to address the needs of homeless and foster children also can have grave consequences to our society. Sophisticated companies like Pfizer and their discerning corporate counsel not only recognize this, but also recognize that those who have access to better lives will contribute to a better society in which all will prosper.
Judge Daniel L. Rubini, Michael Silva and Col. Ralph Sabatino were present to be honored for their services in Iraq. Each of the evening's Iraq honorees is an example of the dedication and sacrifices that are being made every day to bring a better life to its people - including its children. This is captured in the touching photo that we ran in our May issue showing Iraqi children with Mr. Silva, a member of the legal department of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who volunteered to go to Iraq to help rebuild its banking system. All these honorees put themselves in harm's way to create in Iraq a model that would inspire other countries in the Middle East to build prosperous, democratic societies under the rule of law - each becoming a bastion against terrorism. Another honoree, a former member of the Port Authority's legal department, could not attend to receive his recognition. Frank Carvill gave his life in June for his country and for a better world. What higher form of pro bono can there be?
This was truly an inspiring evening. Let us hope that the Greater New York Chapter of ACC-A continues its annual tradition of reminding us of the greatest lesson of 9/11 - that poverty and denial of justice, wherever they exist, threaten all of us.