The anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offers all Americans a timely opportunity to renew our commitment to a diverse society. As a lawyer, my profession has been and remains at the forefront of the battles to guarantee equality and justice for all Americans, and to enforce the protections of the Bill of Rights and the civil rights laws.
But while we are nearing the time when our population will genuinely balance the multiplicity of our cultures – when it will no longer be accurate to describe persons of color as minorities, because persons of color will outnumber Caucasians – many occupations and professions, including lawyers, lag far behind.
The American Bar Association, along with many state and territorial bar associations and the national bar associations that represent African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Pacific Islander lawyers, is working toward the day when a diverse legal profession can truly serve a diverse client base with the best legal talent American legal educators can produce.
We must build on our efforts to recruit and support increased numbers of diverse law school students, and to make sure that newly minted lawyers from all segments of society are put to work serving all segments of society. And we must work to ensure that their talents are fully used rather than hampered by continuing racial discrimination.
In addition to a commitment to recruit a diverse workforce, decision-makers must recognize their responsibility to provide mentoring and opportunities to our youth.
The role of mentoring in ensuring success in a workplace where diversity is a key value can never be underestimated.
Many companies are establishing formal mentoring programs for their new employees. As a mentor, you can be an invaluable resource to a younger employee who is feeling isolated or confused. Explaining the political landscape or just allowing your protégé to ask you that "stupid" question will be invaluable in helping them succeed in your business. Just knowing that you are there can make all the difference.
Businesses and organizations throughout the United States are initiating programs that encourage citizens to give a "day of service" in honor of Dr. King.
The ABA Commission on Opportunity for Minorities in the Profession has advocated that all lawyers rededicate themselves to the principles of justice and equality Dr. King espoused. On his birthday, I urge everyone to take an affirmative step: Begin mentoring a youth in your organization. Volunteer to assist your company or agency in its efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce. Contact our Department of Education and volunteer to mentor a student. Your efforts, large or small, will ensure that Dr. King's dream will continue to thrive and grow. Our commitment to begin to mentor will turn a day of service into a long-term commitment to ensuring increased diversity throughout our workforce.
Editor's note: Tom Bolt is an attorney with the St. Thomas firm of Tom Bolt &
Associates, PC and serves as the American Bar Association Delegate for
the Virgin Islands.


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