|Oregon State Bar Bulletin NOVEMBER 2007|
Pamela Jacklin and Leonard Girard work to level the playing field
By Melody Finnemore
From left: Ken Lewis, Pamela Jacklin and Leonard Girard receive the
Founder’s Award from the I Have a Dream Foundation of Oregon.
The trio established the program in 1990.
Portland attorney Leonard Girard has no qualms as he describes racism’s enduring prevalence in the United States. "Not everybody is racist, of course, but there’s enough to go around," he says.
Girard, grew up in a mostly white neighborhood in California and in 1967, moved to Portland — in and of itself defined as predominately Caucasian. Girard says he became even more aware of the racial inequity problem after learning about Eugene Lang’s "I Have a Dream" program. Lang, a New York businessman, launched the program in 1981, to counter the rising dropout rate among African-American youth and open doors to career possibilities beyond high school.
"My brother and two sisters and I grew up with good parents who cared about our education and were very generous with us, which led us to good jobs and the ability to support our families," says Girard. "In America, there are great opportunities for people, whether they have the ability to get a higher education or develop their skills through other training — there are opportunities to have a good life. And yet, the more we studied, the more we saw that racism is alive and well in America.
"And, the more I learned about Eugene Lang’s success in New York, the more it made sense that we needed to start a similar program in Portland," Girard adds.
A Plan of Action
Girard and his wife, Pamela Jacklin, a partner at Stoel Rives, collaborated with Ken Lewis, then head of the social action committee at Congregation Beth Israel, to establish the I Have a Dream Foundation of Oregon. Founded in 1990, the program sought to counter the 40 percent turnover rate among low-income students, who frequently change schools or stop attending altogether because of upheaval at home.
Through its first project, an educational enhancement and scholarship program for at-risk youth, the foundation targeted fifth graders at King Elementary School in Northeast Portland. The goal was to provide a support network and build life skills for students to carry with them as they completed elementary school and moved into middle school, says Girard, who along with Jacklin and Lewis, is an ex officio member of the foundation’s board.
According to a study by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, teens who participated in the I Have a Dream program performed better overall, Girard says, noting one of the program’s graduates went on to earn a medical degree and another obtained a nursing degree.
"I would never claim that through our wonderful magic, we achieved this," he says. "There are plenty of people who have contributed, but our program has helped and tends to work."
Girard and Jacklin recently received a 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Arts Federation for their work with the I Have a Dream Foundation, as well as other efforts to support students and promote civil rights. Though the honor is a crown jewel in a stellar community service career, co-founding and serving on the board for the I Have a Dream Foundation is just one of many ways Girard and Jacklin volunteer to help others.
A Shared Vision
Girard grew up in Van Nuys, Calif., earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Oregon and completed the LLB program at Stanford Law School in 1967. His interest in economics and regulated industries led him to George Rives, whom Girard credits as one of the finest utility lawyers in the nation. Girard became a partner at Stoel Rives in 1974, and represented clients such as Pacific Power & Light Co.
Jacklin planned to be a teacher and earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from Illinois Wesleyan University. She attended Drew University in Madison, N.J., and participated in a semester of courses at the United Nations, which fueled her interest in international law.
"I think I was always subconsciously interested in law, but I’m just old enough that there weren’t any women going to law school," she said. "My father was initially disappointed that I wasn’t going to get a Ph.D., but he was proud that I got a law degree. I think my mother’s comment was, ‘I should have guessed. You always did like to argue.’"
Jacklin earned her law degree from the University of Idaho, and her master of arts in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In addition, Jacklin studied at the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva, Switzerland.
Jacklin and Girard have been together for 23 years and met at Stoel Rives (before it was Stoel Rives) while working for the firm’s electric power clients. Today, Jacklin specializes primarily on renewable energy issues, with a focus on electric transmission.
Girard left Stoel Rives in 1988, to join Portland General Electric, eventually serving as senior vice president and in-house general counsel before retiring in 1997. He has since served on a mediation panel for the Oregon Court of Appeals and as a private consultant on regulatory issues for power companies.
Girard also is a member of Lewis & Clark law school’s board of visitors, where he has aided in the school’s efforts to diversify its student body. Because the cost of renting a place to live and other living expenses often prohibits minority students from pursuing a law degree, Girard and Jacklin in 1996 began offering their home as a place for students to live while attending Lewis & Clark.
The visiting students have come from as near as South Carolina and Georgia and as far as Panama and France. The arrangement not only provides a support network and opportunity for mentorship for the students, it also infuses the Girard/Jacklin household with the energy of sharing different ideas, lifestyles and cultures. The pair often visit their former housemates, both in America and abroad.
Jacklin, who serves as Stoel Rives’ lead diversity partner and chair of its diversity committee, helps recruit, develop and retain minority attorneys and staff. Her volunteer work includes serving as founding director of Friends of the West Women’s Shelter. She previously volunteered for the ACLU of Oregon’s Lawyers Committee.
"The pro bono work I’ve done has always been fascinating, and has brought me in contact with people I probably wouldn’t have been in contact with otherwise," she says.
In addition, Jacklin is past chair of the Multnomah Bar Association Committee on the Status of Women and the Oregon Selection Committee for the Rhodes Scholarship Trust. She also is an advisory committee member for the Northwest Women’s Law Center and National Women’s Law Center.
A View Toward the Future
Jacklin currently is working with colleagues in the Netherlands to start a new non-profit organization called Sisters in Law to support and develop African women lawyers who will work for legal and social changes advancing women in Sierra Leone.
"The hope is to have an impact on women lawyers in that country, but also advance sex equality there," she says, noting that poverty and other social struggles in Sierra Leone may actually present opportunities to bolster women’s rights there. "A time of flex is also a time when you might be able to make some progress."
For her various volunteer efforts Jacklin has received a host of honors, including: the Judge Mercedes Deiz Award from Oregon Women Lawyers; the President’s Public Service Award from the Oregon State Bar; the Founders Award from the Northwest Women’s Law Center; the Meritorious Service Award from the Rotary Club and the Award of Legal Merit from the University of Idaho College of Law.
Girard, who recieved the Judge Mercedes Deiz with Jacklin and is well recognized with other awards for his public service, says he and Jacklin appreciate the honors they receive because it affirms their work within the community. The true reward, however, is the call to action that results from publicity generated by honors such as the World Arts Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, he says.
"The best part is that it’s helped attract some really wonderful people to the I Have a Dream program," Girard says. "We have a broad range of supporters, but they all share a common value. They see that our society is not succeeding for low-income people, and they don’t think our present societal institutions are working as well as they could, so they want to help change that."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melody Finnemore is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.
© 2007 Melody Finnemore