Over the last two days I have attended two events which reminded me of how far we have come in the last few generations.
On Monday evening I spoke to the Bora Laskin Law Society. To be honest, before Monday I didn’t know who Bora Laskin was. But I did some research and I learned Laskin had been the Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court from 1973-1984. I also learned that because he was Jewish, despite an exemplary academic record, he could not find a job in a good Canadian law firm. So he went into teaching law. As time went on, his abilities shone through and he went on to a distinguished career.
I am familiar with a similar story in my country. (In fact there are probably thousands across North America.) William Coleman graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania. He then went to Harvard Law School where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Despite that record, he could not get a legal job in his native Philadelphia — because he was African American. So he commuted back and forth every day on the train to New York where he worked at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, the law firm where I started my career. Coleman worked with Thurgood Marshall on what became the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down separate schools for blacks and whites. He went on be an illustrious career that included serving as the United States Secretary of Transportation.
Then on Tuesday morning I attended the Canadian National Prayer Breakfast. It was a wonderful event with participants from every religion. It emphasized one of the things that clearly separates places like Canada and the United States from many places in the world. While we all value our religions, we respect the rights of others to practice theirs. And we reach across religious lines in government. In the private sector. In our daily lives.