Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Spring 2017, Volume 43, No. 1 - Page 36

Chair the Second Chair. We can actively look for those sitting in the Fifth Chair whose choic- es are burdened with the pounding voices of those sitting in the First Chair. Our as- piration does not require heroic labors; it may be as simple as a thumbs-up or a pat on the back. The Second Chair need only communicate to the Fifth Chair, you are seeing it right, “It’s B.” Jackie Robinson sat in the Fifth Chair. In fact, he was specifically selected and pur- posely placed in the Fifth Chair by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Because of his moral backbone, his controlled temper, and his athletic abil- ity, Jackie was the perfect choice. Many times the First Chair piled on ridicule, ra- cial epithets, and even death threats. Jack- ie felt alone. Once the manager of the Phil- adelphia Phillies, Ben Chapman, occupying the First Chair, verbally beat Jackie nearly to explosive anger while Jackie was at bat. He said things that today would be outra- geous in public or private. Jackie was at the point of breaking and almost walked over to Chapman to brain him with the bat. But one of Robin- son’s teammates, Eddie Stanky, stepped out of the dugout, walked over to Chap- man and said, in substance, “Stop it. You are wrong.” The comments had little ef- fect on Chapman, but they had a powerful effect on Robinson. Robinson’s teammate sat in the Second Chair at a critical time for Jackie, who carried the burden of a terrible Fifth Chair dilemma: do I brain Chapman or do I hold my peace? Robinson’s teammate lifted that burden, for just a moment, and said to Jackie, “It’s B.” Jackie was still in the Fifth Chair on an- other field in Cincinnati. Pee Wee Re- ese, also a teammate of Robinson, sat in the Second Chair. The people in the First Chair were family and friends of Pee Wee from across the Ohio River in Kentucky. As Jackie took the field, Pee Wee’s family be- gan to throw verbal spears at Jackie, not too different from those of Ben Chapman. Pee Wee walked across the field to where Jackie stood and in the presence of all, his family included, simply put his arm around Jackie and began to talk. Once more, a teammate sat in the Second Chair and said to Jackie, “It’s B.” But, that’s not the end of the story. In the stands were young nephews of Pee Wee. Unbeknownst to Pee Wee, they were also in the Fifth Chair. They did not believe the terrible things the adult family members were saying; they had a choice to make. Pee Wee, by simply putting his arm around Jackie, said loud and clear, “It’s B.” They chose not to participate in their elder’s ef- forts to intimidate Jackie. While we often struggle with our own Fifth Chair choices, we can aspire to sit in the Second Chair every time the opportu- nity arises. Aspirational Ethics and the Second Chair is about the moment. Histo- ry, individual history and collective history, is about critical moments. We never know when the moment will come or how criti- cal the moment may be. Nevertheless, we can look for and be aware of those in the Fifth Chair. We can recognize the burden placed on them by the multitude of First Chair voices. We can lift that burden, even if it is only for a moment, and inspire the choice to do good by our reaffirming voice, “It’s B.” And, when we do, powerful things will happen! ____________________ Gregory P. Hawkins is a lawyer with thirty years of courtroom experience, author of four books, three of which are about ethics, and many published articles. Lonn Litchfield is a trial lawyer of twenty years and author with a JD from the J. Reu- ben Clark School of Law and an LLM from the London School of Economics. Scenes from our Mid-Winter Meeting 36 THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL • SPRING 2017 www.vtbar.org