I became the director of the Center for Court Innovation in the aftermath of 9/11, so it seems somehow fitting that my final days in the position have also involved a major crisis.* While it is sad to end my run on a less-than-festive note, a global health emergency does have a way of putting things in perspective. Some weeks ago, I went to see American Utopia, a show put together by David Byrne, the former lead singer of Talking Heads. Much to my surprise and chagrin, I found myself moved to tears by the performance. Byrne had assembled a band of a dozen or so musicians of diverse origins (in terms of race, gender, nationality, etc). There was something incredibly powerful about seeing this group function as a team, performing precise choreography and complicated rhythms with style and enthusiasm.
It reminded me of the Center for Court Innovation.
I don’t claim that we are a perfect organization. I don’t claim that we are immune to disorganization or disagreement or any of the other ills that afflict even the best institutions. But, on our best days, the Center is a staggeringly diverse collection of people who have come together to do something difficult and important. And, like the American Utopia band, we do it with our own unique, life-affirming swagger.
The song that made the deepest impression on me during American Utopia was called “OneFineDay.” The lyrics suggest that the singer is living through troubled times but that he can see in the distance a city on a hill. He concludes on a hopeful note: “It is not that far, the onefineday.” Check out this version of Byrne singing the song with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus:
Byrne expresses a feeling that is deep in my bones: the goals that we seek – a world where truth, decency, and kindness are ascendant – are not that far away, if we just keep at it.
It has been an incredible honor to serve as director of the Center for Court Innovation for nearly two decades. I step down full of pride at what we have accomplished together -- and full of excitement to see what comes next.
* This is an excerpt of an email that I sent to staff at the Center for Court Innovation earlier this week.