“The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he or she wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
September signifies “back to school” for most of us, and for our members it means our calendars will be fuller. Since our time is limited, we must use it well. Your Bar staff, officers, committee and section chairs and co-chairs have been gearing up to help all of us improve our practices and organize our bar and community activities in a way that makes the best use of volunteer time and talent. We know your time is precious, and we respect that.
As your President, I know that I cannot possibly be an expert on the many issues or causes of interest to our members. However, one of the greatest privileges of being President is the power to convene. If used properly, the power to convene is a very effective tool that enables us to overcome barriers, effectively navigate the information and resources available, and increase efficiency to better assist those in need. It is awe-inspiring what our members can accomplish when given the opportunity to collaborate with others to share our knowledge, skills, experience, and contacts while trying to achieve a mutual goal.
I am grateful that past President Rich Melnick had the brilliant idea and the fortitude to take on the gargantuan task of starting the Creating an Improved Tomorrow Program (C-IT). This program has been well accepted by high schools as it enhances government or law related curricula by promoting productive and substantive dialogue between the legal community and students. The first year the program focused on the Trayvon Martin case and what is justifiable self-defense. Last year cyberbullying was the topic, as it is a serious problem that students, teachers and parents face every day. This year, the focus will be on the opioid and heroin crisis as well as the risks of synthetic drugs. The program has provided an avenue to bring together the best resources in the county to constructively address the trending problems or issues for the benefit of our schools’ young people.
As attorneys, we may not know all the answers to any given problem, but we are well equipped to find a means to a solution. Together we can achieve great things. The C-IT program is a template that can be adapted to address whatever new or current crisis our school community is facing. Because the road was paved by the good works of C-IT, we were able to hit the ground running this year. The mission this year is to educate the public; increase student, teacher and parent awareness of the existence of the heroin/opioid/synthetic drug crisis; and educate the public about the risks and the possible responses or actions necessary to protect our community.
C-IT will be implemented in the following high schools this year: Blair, Northwood, Springbrook, Damascus and Poolesville. Steve Chaikin and Damie Adegbuyi have already held organizational meetings with bar members; met with principals; worked on the audio, visual and written materials to be used in the schools. We are now identifying attorneys who will work with each specific school. We have a number of participating young lawyers or new admittees who will help us better relate to students. As a result of these efforts, these young attorneys will gain the opportunity to learn from some of our most talented attorneys.
In light of the interest shown by the schools and the need to increase awareness of the severity of the heroin, opioid and synthetic drug problem on a broad scale, we are also creating a Speakers’ Bureau. The Speakers’ Bureau will go to public and private schools, religious entities, sports clubs, teams or other civic groups that request a presentation. We will maximize use of the initial C-IT presentation, since it is the program that will be used by the Speakers’ Bureau for students and parents. This ensures that the program is consistent and the information is verified and accurate, and it also gives the school or entity a comfort level about the information being presented. This means our speakers have less preparation as no research is necessary; we simply need your speaking skills and a few hours of your time for the presentation itself. We are in the process of gathering names of bar members who either wish to become part of the bureau or are willing to facilitate contact with the school or group in order to make the presentations. If you are a current or past parent or participant in a community you think would benefit from our program, please let us know and we will work with you to schedule a presentation. We have worked hard to break this project down into manageable parts so that as many members as possible can participate. The time commitment can be limited or extensive—it is up to you!
The number of members who have stepped forward to share the way they have been touched by someone who has or had an addiction issue is further evidence that the heroin, opioid, synthetic crisis in Montgomery County cannot be ignored. If you haven’t been touched by this issue, you are very fortunate. We hope our efforts will make it less likely that you will be in the future, but none of us should assume it will never be an issue for someone we know and love.
Our committee and section leadership has been working behind the scenes this summer to make certain that members’ needs are met and to ensure that goals are identified and realized. Please be responsive to the committees or sections of which you are a part or initiate contact with the groups that interest you. If our members benefit from our association, the association benefits from its members, and in the long term the legal community and the public benefit from both.
Join us for our Bar Luncheon on September 1st; State’s Attorney John McCarthy will be our speaker. He will be discussing the heroin/opioid/synthetic drug issue, truancy, mental health and our rapidly aging population.
Lynn Caudle Boynton