MLK Program Anniversary Celebration

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MLK Program 15th Anniversary Celebration A Triumph !

Over 300 lawyers and judges crowded into the Pennsylvania Bar Institute facility in Philadelphia on Tuesday, October 23, 2007 to help celebrate the 15 years that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Summer Internships have been bringing diversity to legal aid.

The proceedings were not only televised on cable television, but they were simulcast to four other locations in Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh, Mechanicsburg, Erie and Stroudsburg – making this truly a statewide celebration.

Attendees heard words of praise, encouragement and thanks from First Judicial District President Judge C. Darnell Jones, II, Pennsylvania Bar Association President Andrew Susko, and Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Elect Michael Pratt.

Also speaking were Mid-Penn Legal Services Director Rhodia Thomas (a member of the MLK Celebration Committee), Community Impact Legal Services Director Carolyn Johnson (a founding member of the MLK Program), and Rasheedah Phillips (a former MLK Summer Intern who will begin her two-year service as an MLK Fellow next summer), whose speech about what diversity means and offers ended in a standing ovation from all present.

PLAN, Inc. Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia Newcomer introduced a video about the MLK Program, which was created specially for the Celebration and will now be shared with all law schools and bar associations across the state.

Executive Director Sam Milkes was able to announce that, thanks to almost single-handed efforts of long-time PLAN supporter Tobey Oxholm, the General Counsel of Drexel University, and Chair of the 15th Anniversary Celebration, PLAN, Inc. had received over $250,000 in cash and pledges to support the Martin Luther King, Jr. Program.

Rhodia Thomas told the attendees that, thanks to Drexel’s Information Resources and Technology Department, PLAN now has a data-searchable website on which the resumes and attributes of MLK Summer Interns and Fellows would be posted, providing a new diversity resource for PLAN programs and financial supporters interested in hiring minority attorneys – a talent pool that will increase each year as more law students enter the summer program and others are screened by PLAN, Inc.

The luncheon’s keynote speaker was NPR’s senior correspondent Juan Williams, author of the acclaimed Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. Beginning with a story about Thurgood Marshall to explain how people misperceive others who do not share a common past, Williams engaged in a discussion with “the living Thurgood Marshall,” demonstrating the huge shifts in demographics that our country had gone through in the 40 years since the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

He told the assembled legal community that “we live at a time of great historical importance” and that lawyers in particular have the opportunity – and the duty – to be social engineers, using the law to ensure that all parts of American society are given the opportunity to succeed. He said the era of the melting pot was over, and America was now a social “chef’s salad” with its parts remaining separately identifiable, and the whole being greater than just the sum of the ingredients.

The luncheon celebration followed a reception in the elegant Mayor’s Conversation Hall at Philadelphia’s City Hall. More than 125 managing partners and hiring partners of law firms, members of the judiciary, MLK summer interns, and PLAN directors came together to celebrate the MLK Program’s 15 years and to encourage the profession to keep pursuing the twin objectives of providing legal aid to the indigent, and of encouraging diversity in the legal profession. The video was unveiled at this reception.

PLAN, Inc. was honored to have the Honorable Ronald D. Castille, the next Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and C. Darnell Jones, II, the President Judge of the First Judicial District, offer remarks in support of PLAN and the MLK Program. The reception was hosted by the Honorable John F. Street, Mayor of Philadelphia and long-time supporter of legal services and it was made possible thanks to the support of the Independence Foundation