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Governance & Membership

President's Message - March 2021

Civility: A Cornerstone of Our Civilization

By Mike Mordy

Harry Woods, OBA President, 2004

Harry Woods, a past president of the Oklahoma Bar Association and longtime Crowe & Dunlevy attorney, passed away in January. He served as OBA president in 2004, which was the first year I served on the OBA Board of Governors. I had not previously been involved with the Oklahoma Bar Association in any way, and I remember my wife and I first attending an OBA social event where I met Harry Woods. I was immediately struck by how polite, courteous and attentive he was and how he was very much a gentleman. He was the epitome of civility. I never had a case with him but remember he and I both being at a motion docket where I noted his same civility in that professional setting.

Civility is an important attribute of mankind and is a cornerstone of our civilization. Civility is especially important in our profession. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “Unfortunately civility is hard to codify or legislate, but you know it when you see it. It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.”

There has been, and still is, much discord in our country. Some members of the media, including reporters, appear to have lost their civility, as evidenced by their manner in interrupting, patronizing and failing to respect those who are in governmental authority when interviewing them. The use of emails has in some way, and in some cases, caused deterioration in the civility of our communications with each other. Sending a letter was our previous means of communicating, which required some forethought in dictating or drafting the correspondence, having it typed, proofing it, maybe retyping it and then signing and sending. Now we typically communicate through email, which can be prepared and sent without much forethought and sometimes sent with passive aggression – or more.

I mention all of this because we are currently surrounded by hostility in the news media and social media, but we as attorneys must maintain our civility in dealing with the public and especially in dealing with each other. We need to be reminded that “civility is not a sign of weakness,” as stated by John F. Kennedy, nor is it a quaint notion, but rather is a matter of being courteous and polite.

I hope that we can continue to be courteous, polite and civil towards each other, and the public, and not fall into some of the current strife and discord.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 92 (March 2021)