A remarkable event occurred the morning of Saturday, January 13, 2018. A civil defense alert of an incoming ballistic missile, headed for Hawaii and destined to arrive in about 15 minutes, was broadcast throughout the state. Assuming the dicey probability whether one survived, it was one of those unforgettable “remember were you were when…” events. For those of my generation, it was similar to the announcement of statehood, the assassination of JFK, and, most recently, the terrible destruction wrought on September 11, 2001. For all who experienced the alarming news that recent Saturday morning, it was surely an event to be permanently etched in one’s memory.
The good news is that it was a false alarm. A Chicken Little event. But while the truth of the news was still with us, it seems fair to assume that we all had our own private epiphanies as we contemplated the prospect that in a few minutes we would no longer exist.
If we took the possibility of nuclear attack seriously, it is likely that our first thoughts and immediate concerns went out to our loved ones. In words that did not necessarily come easily to some of us, we wanted them to know how much we loved them, to thank them for all they meant to us. Perhaps to say how sorry we were for disappointments, for real or imagined slights, for perceived failures big and small.
As the clock ran down, turning inward, we might have reflected briefly on the meaning of our own lives. Is it not possible that some of us might have asked whether we lived our professional lives to the fullest?
The surreal prospect of being vaporized in a few minutes, of being utterly annihilated, might have raised the question: Assuming that we couldn’t take it with us, that there would be no do-over, that there would be no survivors among those who mattered the most to us, were we fully satisfied with how we lived our lives as attorneys? Were we at peace with ourselves as we reflected on this?
My guess is that none of us would feel regret for not going to the office earlier or staying later the previous week to log in a few more billable hours. Given the choice of being highly successful in the conventional sense of financial reward and the acquisition of material comforts, as opposed to a life enriched by selfless service to our fellow human beings, without consideration of maximizing profit, in facing the imminence of mortality most of us would choose the latter. Not that these considerations are mutually exclusive. But the impulse to do the greatest social good has to be a powerful incentive for all of us. It is part of the DNA for most of us who have chosen this truly noble life’s work.
In the coming year, let us work together to make our lives as lawyers and judges as meaningful as possible for those whom we serve. For all we know, the next one might be the real thing.
We are fortunate to have a truly great HSBA board, supported by outstanding staff members. I am deeply humbled and honored to serve with them this coming year, as we promise to do our best to serve all of you to the best of our collective ability.
- Howard K.K. Luke, HSBA President