This weekend I attacked the “keep” pile in my home office. In sorting through this mass of kids’ art projects, photos, articles, and warranties, I came across a copy of the questionnaire I filled out as part of the search process for the position of HCBA executive director.
I remember paining over the last set of questions devoted to values. Of the 70 listed, I was to identify the ten I believed to be most important.
Each of the values on the list was unquestionably meritorious; narrowing down meant choosing between values like “fairness,” “faith,” and “family”— and that’s just half of the Fs. (Acknowledging my obvious flaws, I did not choose “organized.”) The task got progressively harder: I was to identify the six most important values and define them; I then put them in rank order.
The value that rose to the top for me was “integrity”—alignment of words and deeds; honesty under pressure.
The purpose of this exercise was to determine where there was consistency between the values of the HCBA and those of the candidates for executive director. Indeed, as the past few months have shown me, the HCBA does value integrity.
Specifically, I have been witness to the personal integrity of our members and that of the HCBA leadership in our discussion, debate, and action related to amending the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
The recent, unanimous action taken by the HCBA Board of Directors to issue a “call to action” resolution encouraging members to work against the constitutional amendment was borne out of integrity—matching the words of the HCBA’s articles of incorporation, mission statement, and strategic plan with meaningful deeds.
Member e-mails and phone calls in response to this resolution have been overwhelmingly favorable. However, several individuals have expressed concerns, their strongly-held beliefs unaligned with the action taken. These individuals have exhibited great integrity as well. They have acted upon their beliefs by engaging in dialogue with the HCBA board and, as evidenced in the May issue of The Hennepin Lawyer took time to craft a response for our publication.
The next few months leading up to the vote on this amendment will present situations that test our integrity. Our children will ask us about a lawn sign, bumper sticker, or TV ad; or a close colleague, friend, relative, or neighbor will make a comment about the amendment that we disagree with.
The easy route will be to divert the conversation, let the moment pass, and choose not to respond.
Or, as so many HCBA members already have, we will choose to engage with integrity—and with a few of those other meritorious values on that list of 70: curiosity, generosity, openness and the like. We’ll do so because we know that, as philosopher and lawyer Sir Fancis Bacon once said, it is “… not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”