Legacy Speeches as Oral Presentation – Bill Bearden ’19

Guest blogger Bill Bearden shares wisdom on what he’d like to pursue as his life well lived. This speech is part of a class assignment for the DC Summer Institute on Leadership and Community Engagement.

In the name of solidarity

Together we have achieved that which no individual may take credit for and that which no collective should be without. Where from brains fled for better opportunities, ours fled to. Where we were encouraged to leave, we were emboldened to stay. Where the beaten path lay, we do not know. Our work here at the law firm providing exceptional legal defense for the disenfranchised and the downtrodden for nothing but the satisfaction of seeing them succeed, financed by standard legal rates for those who are of means, has emboldened the people of this fair city.

This city which saw the birth of a nation and the deaths of countless others is no longer the playground of the powerful families which managed it since before our parents were young.

We have felt deep down in each of us a fire which will only be extinguished with our deaths. This fire burns constantly within us and moves our limbs to march beside our fellow human beings and fills our hearts with the desire to make the world a better place for everyone. We have not built an organization which works from pity but from righteous indignation at the horrors and tragedies which surround us and inflict their worst on our most vulnerable. The fire and motivation which we have held at the forefront of our organization and our lives are our most valuable asset, and we must never lose sight of that.

Moving forward, even when this room hosts an array of entirely new faces, the mission to demonstrate communal solidarity can never be lost. Should we ever put profits over people, we will have gone defunct. The name might remain, and the building still host the same licenses, indeed it might even expand, but the essence of our organization will have faded away and that which remains would be indistinguishable from the sea of our counterparts. It is imperative that we do not lose ourselves.

Today, with our litigating day job and our organizing night job, we have shown the defenseless here those defenses which they have since used to assert themselves. Together, we have created a new peace for our people and banished much of the misery which haunted too many. Our mission is far from fulfilled, but our progress is undeniable.

We were not alone in our endeavors, however. We were joined by countless organizations and countless lone wolves each as inspired and capable as the next. Just as no individual person can take credit, neither can no individual organization.

Instead, the entirety of our friends, neighbors, and strangers in solidarity bowed their heads and held hands to change the world which we knew. As previously mentioned, however, there is yet more work to do. People far more inspired and capable than any of us can imagine have yet to be born and have yet to mold the world in ways we dare not dream. We are but a link in a chain stretching from the dark past to the brightest future we could ever know. That said, we’re the best link yet. And now that our link is cast and in place — and there, our successors’, link is being wrought, I enter my retirement with contentment.

Categories: Academics, Community Engagement & Service, Student Blogs, Student Leadership Development, Study Away, W&M in Washington Tags: ,

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