April 12, 2010

BFC's Lord High Legal Director claiming the Scoutt crown

We are pleased to share with you the transcript of the speech given by Bread for the City's legal director, Vytas V. Vergeer, upon acceptance of the DC Bar Foundation's 2010 Jerrold Scoutt Prize:

Ronald Wilson Reagan….Arnold Alois Schwartzenegger... Jesse “The Body” Ventura... Al Stuart Franken... Vytas Varekojis Vergeer. So begins, and hopefully ends, a long list of light entertainers who somehow became recognized for other accomplishments.

Seems to me that there are basically two ways to get the Scoutt prize: being great at what you do for a pretty long time…or not completely sucking at what you do for a reeeeally long time. I’m glad to see the Scoutt prize covers both this year. (Yay! I don’t really suck!)

I’m going to tell a little story a few people have heard before. A few days after I took the final in my law school professional responsibility class, the professor saw me wandering around campus. She flagged me down and gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received – a compliment I have pretty much always tried to live my life by. She said, “Vytas, not only was your exam the best in the class, but it was really funny.” I consider this award to be a continuation of that compliment, and a true reflexion of the wonderfulness of this legal services community for both allowing me to do the work I do and to be the person I am.

I’m not much into recognition and awards. That’s not why I, or anyone I know in this community, do the work I do. But I consider the Scoutt prize to be my hall of fame. And I got in without using any performance enhancing substance other than Mountain Dew. But seriously, when you look at the list of people who have gotten this award before, and with, me – the people I so admire in this community -- my mentors -- my idols -- the absurdity and incredible honor of my getting this award really hits home.

Speaking of my co-recipient, I couldn’t be more pleased to receive this award with Eric. I must confess he expressed concern that his speech would not be as funny as mine. I want to say now that that concern was well-founded. But Eric has been an incredible advocate for the poor in this community and a fantastic partner in the many battles we’ve fought to improve the legal rights and representation for our clients. Thank you, Eric, for all the ways you’ve helped me and this community. And I’m not just saying that because you’re my wife’s boss.

Since I’m well over my allotted two minutes, I’ll get to the thanking part and the finale. So thank you, most sincerely, to the following people and/or entities, in no particular order. Zuckert, Scoutt, and Razenberger for having this prize in the first place, the DC Bar Foundation for actually giving it to me. To all the judges. Well, not all the judges. You know who you are. My incredible wife, Bonnie and my children, who have tolerated my late hours, bad moods, and low pay for years and years. Jeannine Sanford, my true partner at Bread, who was dumb enough to hire me…twice. George Jones, the Director of Bread for the City, who’s supported just about anything I’ve ever asked for. Rebecca Lindhurst and Su Sie Ju, our two most veteran and competent attorneys who tolerate my "leadership style" and are the ones who really make Bread’s legal clinic work. Every other attorney and employee at Bread’s legal clinic and Bread in general, who work their asses off to help DC’s poor. I’ve got nothing but clich├ęs, but they are simply an incredible group of people to whom I’m eternally grateful. Thanks to Mark and Maureen and all the pro bono lawyers who’ve helped us. And thank you to the clients – I say that I hate them – not true, actually, I love them. God help me, I love them. They have taught me more about life, law and myself than I could ever have imagined. It’s been such a privilege to work for them and for Bread and for and with this community. Thank you.

I could and should talk in inspirational fashion about our work now. I don’t have time. Too many jokes. I will say this: I so, so, so wish our work was ended. Alas it is not.

Ok, I led with a joke. Check. I told a story. Check. I thanked everyone. Check. So now I must end with a quote. I was thinking of singing this, but I’ll spare you. I leave you with some musings of the great Lyle Lovett.
I’ve had an excellent time so far.
There’s only one thing that I fear.
I’ve been up so long on this lucky star.
It could be all downhill from here.
Thank you. Very, very much.

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