Larry James is a leader. The partner at the law firm Crabbe, Brown and James has spent a lifetime providing guidance. The events of July, however, tested even the strongest of resolves.
Larry James is a leader. The partner at the law firm Crabbe, Brown and James has spent a lifetime providing guidance. The events of July, however, tested even the strongest of resolves. Dallas. Baton Rouge. St. Paul. They added their names to a list of communities on the fault line between police and minorities that grows with alarming frequency. It's hard to know what to do. It's hard to know how to feel.
On Sunday morning, as President Obama was preparing to deliver a stirring speech in Dallas, Larry James was grappling with his own words. Few people are as uniquely positioned in this nation's struggle for understanding as James, and he knew there were many looking to him for direction. Professionally, James has been general counsel to the National Fraternal Order of Police since 2001. He's reached the pinnacle of his profession, and much of it has been in assisting the very men and women of law enforcement who now were at the center of both anger and pain.
James began his message to his colleagues in uniform. "I am reminded of something from Anne Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl.' She said, 'It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.'"
His message concluded, "There is good in the world and it is worth fighting for. It is never easy. Often it simply starts with each of us. Making a difference in anything and everything we do in life personal, professional or otherwise starts with the commitment of wanting to be better. That takes work of the mind, spirit and a belief in ourselves and the people around us. Our thoughts become our words and our words become the actions we take."
His wife, Donna, however, knew that it was more than the members of the FOP who were looking to James for guidance. As a black man and the eldest of seven siblings born to five different fathers and raised on welfare in Alabama and Cleveland, James understands the emotions driving police protests. By his own hand, James has helped lift not only himself, but his siblings, his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews out of poverty. "There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't seen," says James. "What you call me is one thing. What I answer to is another."
Donna copied her husband's message to the state FOP directors and sent it out to family and friends around the country. "We need to bring some sanity to the insanity," Donna wrote. "Here are a few words of sanity to share, and hoping to begin within each of us, words and thoughts that take us to a better place, that lead to responsive caring acts of change and healing, one person at a time being that bridge to positive change."
"Some of the members of our family are younger. They respond emotionally to these things," James says. "It's up to us to find ways to calm the waters."
The message, he says, is the same "whether the room you're addressing is all blue or all black"-find the good that exists in everyone and help others do the same.
"It's tense, yes," James says. "But when the waters are rough, leaders take the rudder and guide the ship safely to shore."