Amy Rees Anderson

On Civility And Kindness

Last Friday night I was invited by my dear friend, retired US Senator Orrin Hatch, to hear Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch speak at BYU at an event being put on by the Hatch Foundation.   

Introducing Justice Gorsuch was President Dallin H. Oaks (the First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).  Prior to being called into church service, President Oaks had graduated law school, was a law clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, became a practicing attorney, was a law professor, was President of BYU, and was appointed to the Utah Supreme Court.  President Oaks and his wife Kristen also happen to be two of my very favorite people that I think the world of.  President Oaks has given some amazing talks in the past on the importance of protecting the US Constitution, the importance of religious freedom, and the need for greater civility.

It was also fun to get to see Elder D. Todd Christofferson (a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church) and his wife Katherine as I’ve known both of them since I was in High School and we were both living in Brentwood Tennessee.  Elder Christofferson is also a lawyer and was once a law clerk for Judge John J. Sirca during the Watergate hearings.  He has also given some incredible talks over the years on similar subjects.  

This event was my first time meeting Justice Gorsuch and I have to tell you that I was incredibly impressed by the things he shared in his talk.  He spoke mainly of the need for civility in our country.  He shared how civility is always possible, even when we disagree on issues. He explained how he and his fellow Supreme Court Justices have tremendous respect for one another even though they fall on opposite sides of issues. He shared that mutual respect and kindness mixed with some good old laughter and a few practical jokes they play on one another helps them keep their relationship positive. 

Also during his talk he shared his concern that many young people in America don’t recognize the importance of our Constitution. He said youth often express that they think of themselves as citizens of the world.  “I tell them if you mean you recognize the dignity and worth of all people, I’m all in – If you mean that there is nothing special about the Constitution, the rule of law, this special gift you’ve been given, think again.” 

Justice Gorsuch ended his talk by asking everyone in the audience to exercise civility when advocating civility and to show more kindness to others. He shared that while he’d been a professor he would ask students to write their own obituaries in class. He would then ask some of them to read it aloud to the class. He said that never in ten years of teaching had any student talked about how much money they made or the time they spent at work, but rather they’d written about the service they’d done and the kindness they’d shown to others.

Great words from a clearly great man, and a great night in the presence of so many great people I look up to and respect so dearly.

~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )

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