Civic duty takes different forms

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.

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