After I resigned my military commission as a naval officer because I lost motivation from the Vietnam War, I wondered what I could do for my future to make my life worthwhile. My best high school friend was in town as a civil rights lawyer and asked if I wanted to watch him argue a case for Cesar Chavez’s fledgling union against wine growers’ attorneys.
(Civil rights lawyer Jerry Cohen addresses UFW crowd with an inspirational speech)
(Cesar Chavez and his two German Shepherds)
His arguments demolished the private property claims of the ten slick business attorneys for the wine industry who tried to paint the farm workers as law-breaking scum. I was convinced I could never do anything so challenging. He convinced me that with determination and a subject that inspired me, I could do anything I set my mind on. Since I was motivated by the concept of justice, watching him win against his formidable opponents provided the spark I needed. Before long I too was a civil rights lawyer pursuing justice for the powerless. My life had been transformed into meaningful work every day.
(Dan, Joan, and Aleksey at the Gallo March during the Boycott; photo from fellow Hastings College of Law friend and classmate, Howard Watkins of Fresno)
I had a similar challenge when beginning to write my memoir, which took great determination, study, and practice at word art from authors and professors of creative writing. It appeared such a daunting task with a life of so many unconnected lively experiences, how could I create a book that would accomplish my purpose of sharing my inspiration? With their encouragement I developed my craft and in six years a book.
How does what you do connect you to your greatness or your potential? Gaining confidence from a friend who knows your potential is a great asset. My father, on the other hand, discouraged me from the practice of law and said I could never pass the bar exam. Having had the opportunity to argue civil rights cases for the poor and powerless was an opportunity to achieve greatness for a righteous cause. Others said I did great work and had been transformed from the friend they knew before as an athlete, but not an advocate for the poor that made a difference in so many lives. That made me gain confidence as did my friend’s coaching and that of my professors and writing coaches when I retired and wrote my book.
(Dan reads from his memoir, All the Difference, at a book signing locally)
What wisdom or guidance can I share for others? Don’t always follow your father’s advice, or that of anyone else who does not know your motivation, passion, and determination. If you have a passion to do something some people don’t believe possible, you should not be discouraged. You can do anything you set your mind to accomplish with undying determination, a reasonable goal, and the necessary training. You can always improve yourself and your future with tenacity, resilience, and the right motivation. Seek out positive people if others discourage your dream. Even if no one sees you as you want to become, you should follow your heart, but don’t forget to carry your mind with you on your journey.