Civic Duty Takes Different Forms

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

“I’m sorry” has uniformly been the response when colleagues and friends have learned that I currently have jury duty. I think I understand that reaction. They’re sorry for the inconvenience of being taken away from my every day 9 to 5 life for the two weeks that the judge has estimated this trial will take. I interpret the reaction as one that places higher value on my professional job than on the importance of my personal civic responsibility.

Well, I take jury duty seriously. I know that if I, or someone I cared about, were facing a jury trial, I would want jurors like me. I am listening attentively. I believe that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. I don’t let my mind wander and worry about what is happening at WRAG. I focus on what is happening in that courtroom.

I believe that every situation has a silver lining. Perhaps the silver lining of the recent polarizing election season will be a stronger recognition of civic responsibility generally. The support for the Women’s March underscores the power of one person’s voice. In November, Teresa Shook, a retired attorney in Hawaii, suggested a march to a few friends via social media. Forty responded immediately, then according to the Washington Post, half a million people came to Washington last Saturday (as well as millions of others demonstrating in their own cities), to follow in a long-held tradition of marching in solidarity for a cause. The Women’s March was a powerful demonstration of a civic action.

So, the next time the summons comes for you to serve on a jury, or someone tells you that they have jury duty, maybe you will react differently. Civic engagement – taking on those rights and responsibilities of being a citizen of this country, like voting, serving on a jury, peacefully protesting, and expressing your views – are vital to maintaining the strong backbone of America.

Tamara's column, A Voice from Philanthropy, is published on WRAG's blog, the Daily WRAG. Read past columns here.