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Record of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York

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It is an honor for me to be invited to address you at this Annual Luncheon. You have worked hard to bring opportunities to members of the minority community. You have made possible the realization of many aspirations while continuing the struggle toward equal opportunity for all people.* Thirty-nine years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to the soul of the nation, sharing his vision of an America that would "one day...rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed-'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all [persons] are created equal." His idea and the opportunity it offers is sometimes referred to as the "American Dream." Broadly defined, it is-in the words of novelist Thomas Wolfe "a chance [which is given to every person] regardless of... birth, [a] shining golden opportunity-[which allows individuals] the right to live, to work, to be [themselves], and to become whatever [their] vision can ...make [them]." This promise has been embraced by individuals in every sector of our society, from statesmen and philosophers to writers, teachers, lawyers, and firefighters. Implicit is the idea that no one will be denied a chance to compete to the best of his or her ability because of race, ethnicity, heritage, gender, or for any other reason not bearing on that person's qualifications. Or to put it in other words, we all are to be treated equally, and with the respect that we deserve as human beings. The concept of the American Dream is not found in any official document. Its hopeful philosophy has been expressed-in one form or the other-throughout 2,500 years of history. As a concept, it is embodied in our Constitution, as amended, in writings of historical importance, and in the actions of people on a daily basis. Its roots can be traced to ancient Greece, which established the world's first democracy. Nowhere, however, has the Dream been so well-realized, and by so many people, as it is in our nation in the present day. And yet, as we all know, the Dream is only partially complete. Indeed, it does not reach every corner of the land and touch every person equally. It does not reach to every corner of the legal profession. There is still much more to do before the Dream can become a reality for all.