“With great power comes great responsibility”— I know, I know, that’s a quote most popularly attributed to a Spiderman comic book, but it’s true. When one has it in their power to be able to help others, one should not take this responsibility lightly. That’s why I have committed myself to being of service to my community.
Many people typically volunteer a day of service on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, holiday. This year, I did too. You may know that aside from my position as a personal injury attorney with Anderson Law in Kennewick, I also hold a volunteer position as a commissioner for the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs. Sometimes this position requires that I meet with legislators and speak with them about priorities expressed by community members for potential legislation, and advise them and the Governor on behalf of our communities. This year, I spent the weekend of January 17th in Olympia, Washington, discussing legislative priorities with representatives and senators elected to represent our geographic area in the Tri-Cities. I will return to Olympia again on February 22nd. It’s not an easy job, and at times seems futile and full of disagreement regarding policy priorities. However, I’ve often heard that worthwhile endeavors seldom come easily. The demands of this volunteer position are more than I initially expected, and are certainly not limited to only one day of service a year. Nevertheless, I continue to willingly and fervently represent my community because I have been fortunate enough to be given the ability and the power to try to make a positive impact upon it.
There was a time when I felt powerless and incapable of making a difference, because I was young, Latino, and poor. I am now older, an attorney, and while I am not wealthy, I am no longer poor. I am still Latino. When I was appointed as a Commissioner, I received criticism for being a part of a Commission that tried to advance representation of the Latino community, despite there being many different commissions for many different groups of people. I cannot change that I am Latino and inherently want to help people like me, who grew up like me, and faced many of the challenges I faced. Until there is no longer disenfranchisement, and equal and equitable representation in government, I feel that it is my responsibility to elevate the voice of the local Latino community.
In addition to my position on the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, I am also involved in an effort to bring a free bilingual legal clinic to the Tri-Cities. The aim of this bilingual legal clinic is to give members of the community access to free legal advice, where they otherwise may not have been able to afford to pay for this legal service. The first legal clinic will be on March 5th, and I hope it is a success. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a great education, and so I feel it is my responsibility to use this gift for the benefit of others.
I do not seek recognition for any of the service to my community, for I think that part of living is (or should be) to help others live better and enjoy their lives, as well. Before committing to service, many people may ask,"Why should I care?” Perhaps a better question may be,“Why shouldn’t I care?” It’s our community and everyone in it benefits from it being improved. Many times I think back to the words of a mentor, the Honorable Judge Salvador Mendoza, who once said “If I don’t do it, who will?” regarding serving the community. I have embraced these words and think that we should all live by this principle.
Even though I shy away from any recognition for most things I do, I have recently been granted the honor of being selected for the Spirit of Service Award by a student group from my alma mater, Seattle University’s Latino Law Student Association. I am honored and humbled to be recognized. It gives me hope and encouragement to know that a great group of future attorneys feel the need to recognize service and also feel compelled to serve their own communities.
My opening quote may seem cliché due to its attribution to a comic book, but it rings true. Perhaps a similar, but more appropriate quote is:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted much, much more will be asked. (King James Bible, Luke 12:48)
Regardless of the origin of either quote, I take them both to heart.
– Edwardo Morfin, associate attorney