When I was a younger man, George H.W. Bush launched many attacks against Michael Dukakis in the Presidential contest of 1988. In addition to the racism of the Willie Horton ad, King George I accused the Massachusetts Governor of being a card-carrying member of the ACLU. That seemed pretty cool to me so the first time I was able to vote in a general election, I voted for Dukakis.
When I decided to go to law school, I was not prepared. I just knew I wanted to help people. I knew there was a professor at the school who was a pillar in the ACLU.
After I was beaten senseless by the first semester of law school, I needed to know why I was subjecting myself to this soul crushing experience. In order to remember what the journey was really about, I picked up a book entitled Defending Rights: A Life of Law and Politics.
That book was written by Frank Askin. I read it over winter break and remembered why I subjected myself to the hazing that is law school.
Defending Rights recounts several of Prof. Askin's ACLU cases. There are a lot of cases. No one has served as General Counsel longer than Frank Askin.
He has litigated cases dealing with election law, allowing leafletting at malls and the first profiling cases on the New Jersey Turnpike called the "Long Haired Travellers" cases.
All of these thoughts come to me everytime I see Prof. Askin. I have seen him at this Membership Conference.
He reminds me that there are heroes that continue this fight. There is Al Bronstein, Nadine Strossen, Reggie Shuford, Nsombi Lambright, King Downing and Jamil Dakwar who are here because they have careers dedicated to protect the rights of the members and even people who actively fight against the ACLU.
I have very few heroes. Prince, KRS-ONE, Charles Mingus and Neil Young are my musical heroes. But I'm not a professional musician, I am a lawyer, activist and an ACLU employee. When I think about the person who has inspired me, encouraged me and made me realize that I always want to work for the rights of the people. That person is Professor Frank Askin. He is here at the Membership Conference. I hope that the members who have not met him get to speak with him and become inspired like I am. I hope those who know him take the chance to thank him for all he has done for us. I hope he gets a chance to see the legacy he has created through the young members and the activists he has helped to created. He makes us all proud to be card carrying members.