I'll let you in on a secret - these past thirty-one years - three as a law clerk to the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, four as environmental specialist with that program and twenty-four as the director of a non-profit environmental law project, the Kentucky Resources Council, have been a joy.
I could not have been better prepared than to have mentors, professors and advisors like Paul Oberst, John Rosenberg, Oscar Geralds, Carolyn Bratt, J.T. Begley, John Leathers, John Batt, Bill Fortune, Robert Lawson, Louise Graham, and Paul Van Booven, to show me each in their own way through their words and their actions that service, commitment, respect for human dignity and courage are the threads that bind the law to society, and that give both the law and a life meaning and purpose.
While I have never in 28 years had the occasion to actually BILL a client, I have been rewarded a thousand times over by sharing the lives of my clients and learning from their strength and dignity in the face of overwhelming adversity. It is their strength, their grace and their tenacity that has been my tonic. And once in a great while, we have actually shared a victory!
I accept this award recognizing that my role has been more visible perhaps, but certainly not unique among many UK law school alumni across this state and nation who work or who have worked, in public, nonprofit, and government service, and through volunteer efforts outside of the workplace -- to help to translate through the imperfect tools of the law a desire deeply rooted in Kentuckians to improve their quality of life and to lessen the harms inflicted by the powerful on the powerless; to help craft a more just and enduring manner of governance and of sustaining healthy communities. It is a flame of hope that is often thwarted but cannot be extinguished.
Let me close with a reflection from Reinhold Niebuhr, written in the early 1950's at a time like now when, it is at times difficult to find evidence that we have made durable progress in those things that matter:
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime,
therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing that is true and beautiful or good makes complete sense
in any immediate context of history;
therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;
therefore we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint
of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint;
therefore we must be saved by the final form of love,
which is forgiveness.
May we all find renewal in his words and in each other. Thank you again for these great honors.