More than 800 members of the legal community gathered at the
Westin Boston Waterfront on May 31 for the Massachusetts Bar
Association's 2012 Annual Dinner, where Victoria Reggie Kennedy
gave an inspiring keynote address on the role of lawyers in society
and Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) was honored with the MBA
Legislator of the Year Award.
"For so many members of the bar -- especially members of the
Massachusetts bar -- a career in the law is more than a career. At
its most meaningful moments, it's a calling. Lawyers -- more often
than any other profession -- have made their work, the work of this
country. It was true of lawyers like John Hancock and John Adams,
who helped found this nation. It was true of lawyers like Richard
Olney and Louis Brandeis, who helped found this association," said
Kennedy, co-founder and president of the Board of Trustees of the
Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in
"It is a grand tradition. Franklin Roosevelt -- a lawyer himself
-- knew something about it. 'In every member of the bar,' he said,
'there is the character of a public servant.' Looking at that
history -- and looking around this room -- I think that's exactly
right. It is no coincidence that, generation after generation,
lawyers have done far more than their civic duty. It is not by
chance that this association has, for 100 years, made this state
fairer and freer."
Kennedy went on to implore members of the Massachusetts bar to
continue its proud tradition -- illustrated by the works of
Kennedy's late husband Sen. Edward M. Kennedy -- of entering the
public arena and advancing the public good.
"We are Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We
scale the heights. I know it. I've seen it. I've lived it. And we
can do it again," said Kennedy, quoting her husband.
MBA President Richard P. Campbell welcomed Kennedy, who said his
words provided "the nicest introduction I've ever received in my
"She is first and foremost, a woman of consummate grace,
composure, and dignity such that each of us in this hall tonight
feel a sense of kinship with her. We feel like we know her even if
we have never met her," Campbell said. "Victoria Reggie Kennedy is
a renowned ambassador for civility, for civic engagement as it is
meant to be, and for pursuit of the commonweal (the public
Kennedy's address followed Campbell's presentation of the
Legislator of the Year Award to DeLeo, whom he called "a true
leader with that magic mix of a keen intellect and extraordinary
DeLeo was honored -- his second time receiving the award -- for
partnering with Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L.
Ireland to craft the Court Reform Act of 2011, an issue that had
been studied for nearly 50 years. He was also recognized for
commissioning a blue ribbon task force to study alimony reform,
also successfully enacted in 2011.
"Since his election as speaker, he has demonstrated an unfailing
commitment to the concerns of practicing lawyers and to the
'administration of justice' for the benefit all of our citizens,"
Campbell said of DeLeo. "He devotes countless hours to many
different issues and approaches each of them, no matter how large
or small, with an abiding sense of purpose, vigor and compassion.
His talents inure to the great benefit of Massachusetts
"Although I am truly humbled to receive this award, it is an
honor that belongs to all my colleagues in the House. The House has
worked so hard over the past year to create and pass legislation
that has helped make the Massachusetts justice system the best in
the nation," DeLeo said. "We have approached the courts from one
basic position; that is, that they, as exemplified by the Supreme
Judicial Court, represent the best in American jurisprudence. One
does not tinker lightly with a court system anchored by the oldest
appellate court in the Western hemisphere."
The event also featured the presentation of the colors by the
Massachusetts State Police Honor Guard. Soloist Karen Morris sang
the National Anthem.