Last Saturday, June 16, 2012, John Kudel was sworn in as the MSBA President for Bar Year 2012-2013. As with each incoming president before him, John concluded the Annual Meeting with closing remarks. John outlined his vision for the upcoming year, in which he intends to focus on professionalism, civility, courtesy and respect among our profession. He spoke of the future and the need to encourage the younger attorneys and the next generation of attorneys to become more involved. And, he spoke of the past.
John’s remarks were a tribute. A tribute to the bar association, a tribute to past bar leaders, and a tribute to his parents.
With the help of the tech-savvy MSBA staff, his remarks included a slideshow/video presentation about John, his parents, and the American Dream. I do not want to do John or his parent’s story a disservice by trying to recreate it in its entirety in this blog. Each fact is too specific and too important. (His speech was videotaped, so I am confident that it will be available on the MSBA website in the near future). Simply put, however, John’s remarks centered on how his parents met while his father was stationed overseas during World War II, how they were separated from one another when his father became a prisoner of war, how they were reunited through the heroics of both his mother and father, and how they moved to Pennsylvania, and had a son who would one day be president of the Maryland State Bar Association.
The American Dream. As practicing attorneys, we sometimes forget the reasons we first decided to go to law school. We forget the sacrifices of our parents and we forget our past. We forget the underlying reasons we decided to enter into this profession. John told the story of why he became an attorney, which was previously published the Daily Record in an article written by Ben Mook:
As an impressionionable 12-year-old visiting an attorney’s office with his father, John P. Kudel was impressed by the oak accents, the shelves lined with books — and the sodas for the asking.
Kudel grew up in Lilly, Pa., a town less than 1,000 northeast of Johnstown. On the way home, he asked his father, a World War II veteran and former Japanese prisoner of war, what lawyers do.
“Help people,” Kudel’s father told him. And that sealed the career path for the incoming president of the Maryland State Bar Association.
As attorneys, we should help people. Help people with their legal issues. Help people with their personal problems. Help people who have no other means. We can zealously represent our clients, but remain professional and civil and courteous. We can honor those who have come before us, whether a parent, a past MSBA president, the founding member of your law firm, or a retired judge. We can and should honor this profession. As John leads the way in this upcoming year with a focus on professionalism and civility, it should be a reminder to each lawyer of the way we should conduct ourselves in our everyday practice.
And to John, here’s to the upcoming bar year. Kudos to Kudel!