“Justice Is What Love Looks Like in Public,” Justice Mary Yu

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu’s Keynote Address at FAN’s Annual Dinner

November 19, 2017

We were honored and empowered by WA Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu’s keynote address at our Annual Dinner on Sunday. Now, we are overjoyed to be able to share with you excerpts from her speech:

“Thank you for the invitation to join you tonight and to share a few remarks as you celebrate the power of community and the opportunity to create a narrative for justice.  It is heartwarming and truly a privilege.

Let me begin by saying that as a person of faith, I find strength and courage in knowing that the Faith Action Network (FAN) exists; that there are people like you who understand that each one of us is called by our Creator/God to secure justice, to defend and to protect the vulnerable, and to stand up for the belief that the dignity of each human person is worth fighting for. Thank you for giving voice in the political arena to that mandate.

While we are diverse in our religious traditions, we share the universal belief that love of God, means love for one another –

And we know, love of another, means having the ability to see suffering and to feel compassion and genuine empathy/ such that we are moved to outrage when the dignity of another is diminished or trampled upon.  As your theme for tonight commands – Justice is what Love looks like in Public.

As inhabitants of this great country, we also know that this core belief in the inherent dignity of the human person, has come to be embedded in our constitution and in our identity as a nation.  We have not been perfect in its application and our history is indeed checkered in our treatment of minority groups.  And yet, we have a history that has been progressive in our journey towards moving past these historical errors.  We have come to recognize our interdependence on one another and the value of inclusion and diversity.

But, My dear friends, now more than ever, we need to make sure that we never falter from that conviction.  I have confidence, and hope you do as well, that our union as a nation, is more durable than the forces of divisiveness.  We have come this far as a nation, in our progress towards the realization of full human dignity for all because we have not allowed our challenges and failures to define us.

As President Obama once said in a commencement speech before he left office, “Because throughout our history, what has distinguished us from all other nations is not just our wealth, it’s not just our power. It’s been our deep commitment to individual freedom and personal responsibility, but also our unshakeable commitment to one another — a recognition that we share a future; that we rise or fall together; that we are part of a common enterprise that is greater, somehow, than the sum of its parts…”

He so wisely reminded us of our duty to foster the common good – to keep an eye out for nurturing and sustaining that commitment to one another. We are optimists because of our fundamental belief in the human person and our innovative capacity to overcome challenge.

As I prepared for tonight, I thought about the host of issues or challenges that are ever more important to me and to our court.  Working in a building named the Temple of Justice and having the privilege of using the title “Justice” before your name places a burden that I assure you we do take so seriously.  The Temple of Justice makes us pause as we do our work given the gravity of what we do.  And I want to assure you we do care and we take the job ever so seriously…

We do care about our constitution and its promise of education for every child in the State of Washington.  We do care about our role in the maintenance of a criminal justice system that is unfair in its treatment of black men; we do care about the economic burdens of legal financial obligations, and we certainly do care about reentry after prison and a person’s ability to have a second chance.

And while I could list a host of other issues that are important to me like income inequality, homelessness, and mental health which also deserve our attention, I won’t.  Not because they aren’t important but because they all point to something broader —   a tear in our safety net that is greater than any one issue.  That tear is the erosion of our belief in the common good and our commitment to foster that ethic in the broader society.  A common good that measures our success by asking how the least among us is doing; the idea that I personally share responsibility for making sure that economic progress is measured by how every person is faring at the end of the day and not just by how well my investments are doing.

Thus, my friends at Faith Action Network, I believe the mandate for us today is to be visible and public like no other time in history.  I believe each one of us is being summoned by historical events that cry out for our presence and voice at every level of life – in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in every gathering, and at every demonstration or march, and from every pulpit.  We must build a broader movement for social justice that is visible; one that builds the optics for the world to see that We refuse to be isolated.  We refuse to be divided; we must refuse the invitation to embrace hatred.

People of good will – people of faith – – must show up with a voice in the here and now because those optics matter for each of us, our children and for the future.  Visibility matters.

And when we are engaged, we must do so with clear conviction but with love and civility –civility means we respect the rules of peaceful engagement; that we will be thoughtful in how we speak — but indeed we must speak and we must affirm out loud that we shall not be divided – we shall not hate our neighbor; we shall overcome this trend towards hatred and nationalism.

As I conclude – –  let me ask how many of you have either seen Hamilton or listen to the sound track?   I am convinced that Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius – not only because of his musical talent but because of his call for social awakening in this country at this time in history.  There is a scene where Washington is talking about his failures and both he and Hamilton realize the significance of what they are doing — Washington is reflecting on his losses but knows where he stands is important because he knows history has its eyes on him  —  He reminds Hamilton and says – “I know that greatness lies in you, but remember from here on in – history has its eyes on you”  – History Has its eyes on us —

Be visible – Justice Is What Love Looks Like in Public.”

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of an individual and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Faith Action Network. FAN is an interfaith organization, committed to celebrating and embracing the diversity of faith traditions. If you have questions about FAN’s position on any public policy issues, please feel free to contact the FAN office at (206) 625-9790 or [email protected].
To learn more about contributing to this blog, click here.