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Legally Speaking


Issue: August, 2006
Author: Mary B. Guthrie

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Executive Director's Report

Tempus fugit. Time flies.

I cannot believe how quickly the last 3 ½ years have passed. As clichéd as it sounds, it seems like it was just yesterday when I became the Bar’s executive director.

I had barely gotten my coat hung up, when Sharon Wilkinson, the Bar’s very creative Communications Director, advised me that I should write a column for the February edition of the Wyoming Lawyer and that it was due in two days. At first, I felt a little overwhelmed, because while I always have read publications from the Bar, I must admit that sometimes I did not read the Executive Director’s column with a great attention to detail. Consequently, I was stumped for a topic and I really didn’t want my maiden effort at writing to be mediocre and subject to criticism. (I have no idea how many lawyers read Bar publications, but even if only half of the membership does so, that means that 1,500 friends and acquaintance might wonder if I was up for the job.)

Thankfully, I was quickly inspired to write about my long term friendship with Dick Honaker, who was the 2002-2003 Bar president. Only in Wyoming would Dick had been a student of mine when I taught honors English at Laramie Senior High School in 1967, a later associate at the Attorney General's office and the person who hired me to be the executive director. Since that first column, I have had no shortage of ideas for topics and I thank everyone who has written to say that they have enjoyed my view on life.

In fashioning this last column I decided to see how famous folks had taken leave of a position. Consequently, I read several famous "farewell addresses" in hopes of finding some inspiration or pattern. The recurrent themes were to acknowledge and thank constituents for the privilege of being able to serve and then give some advice. (I have decided to summarize a few of these "farewell addresses" so that you won’t have to read them yourself and also to bring a modicum of seriousness to this column).

In his "Farewell Address of 1796," George Washington urged Americans to "observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all." In 1961, President Eisenhower presented his hope that "the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love."

One of the more poignant instances of leave taking occurred in 1939, when Lou Gehrig retired from baseball after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. "Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." He then catalogued all of the things for which he was grateful, including association with great men, having a "a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter," "a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body" and "a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed. . . . "

You should all be relieved that I have decided not to try come up with any original advice. Consequently, fifty years from now, school children will not be forced to read "Mary B. Guthrie’s Valedictory Remarks." However, in the interest of levity, I have decided that I would like to share the following list of how to make your life more fun:

1. Try everything! Twice.
2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.
3. Keep learning: learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain get idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop" and the devil’s name is Alzheimers.
4. Enjoy the simple things.
5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath. And if you have a friend who makes you laugh, spend lots and lots of time with him/her.
6. The tears happen: endure, grieve and move on. The only person who is with us for our entire life is ourselves. LIVE while you are alive.
7. Surround yourself with what you love: whether it's family pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.
8. Cherish your health. If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.
9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county, to a foreign country, but not to where guilt is.
10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.
11. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.

In a more serious mode, I also commend this marvelous advice from Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Act I, scene iii.

The second part of a valediction is to reflect on how enjoyable the experience has been and to provide thanks.

That aspect is very easy. I want you all to know what a delight it has been to be part of the Wyoming State Bar organization. Our profession has always been an integral part of my life. I am proud that most of my family and my best friends are attorneys. It has been a fun, gratifying and stimulating time for me. I will always remember with fondness my dealings with Bar officers and commissioners, the Courts, Wyoming lawyers and the extraordinarily talented and committed staff at the Wyoming State Bar. "Thanks for the memories."

I have had several acquaintances say with disbelief, "Mary, are you retiring?" I want to respond but don’t, that "I've been called many things, but never have been characterized as shy and retiring." So, I just say, "yes." Then, comes the question, "but what will you do with your time?" My response is to whip out a newspaper advertisement that I recently clipped from the Wall Street Journal.

Dictionary definition of retirement: 1. to disappear 2. to go away 3. to withdraw.

Our definition of retirement: 1. to be connected 2. To reinvent 3. freedom
~ taken from an ad for Ameriprise

I don't plan to follow the "dictionary definition," but will embrace the concept that I will continue to be connected with my family, friends, community and profession, while at the same time deciding what is really important. All of this will bring a great sense of freedom. Specifically, I am going to teach an English class at LCCC, travel to exotic places, play the trombone more, continue to serve on boards in Cheyenne, brush up on my high school Spanish and become a better photographer. I am also going to finish my project detailing the first 50 women who were admitted to practice law in Wyoming. I also plan to keep active in the law by doing appellate and pro bono work. Unlike General Douglas MacArthur, I don’t plan to "fade away."

In some languages, there is no word for "goodbye." Maybe Charlie Brown had the right approach when he observed,

Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.

I also need "hellos" and will look forward to seeing all of you. I’ll now take my leave by emulating E.T. by saying, "Be good."