This year’s 22nd Annual Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA) Conference had an emotional start to the day. The morning began with a Moment of Silence for our dear departed friend Richard Millen that included his son Jeff saying a few words on his behalf, followed by the awarding of the new SCMA-sponsored Richard Millen scholarship at the Western Justice Center in Pasadena, where the bright and promising recipient used his acceptance speech to quote some of Richard’s articles. It was odd hearing the words of our 89 year old Zen guru mediator being channeled through the voice of a young man in his early 20′s, and with almost equal passion.
As if that wasn’t enough, Laurel Kaufer spoke next about this year’s Cloke-Millen Peacemaker of the Year award recipients – the women who carry life sentences in Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California, who wrote to Laurel and asked her to come and teach them conflict resolution and peacemaking skills, just as Laurel had done in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina with the residents on the ground there. We all watched tearful women talk about being murders, with life sentences, and learning for the first time in their lives to listen deeply, reflect back, ask open-ended questions, and how to create peace. Chilling.
It was no wonder to me that when they awarded me the L. Randolph Lowry Award for education and learning in the field, and I began to talk about what it meant to me, especially being named for my friend, mentor and partner in traveling-the-country-teaching-mediation-and-negotiation, Randy Lowry. To give you a clearer picture, Randy and I have taught side-by-side, from the gorgeous Pepperdine Law School in Malibu, to to a group of franchisees San Francisco, a law firm in Chicago, a legal department in Cincinnati, nurses at a huge Dallas Hospital, for a university in Jackson, Mississippi and Hilton Head, South Carolina, at Randy’s new home at Lipscomb University in Nashville, and to insurance adjusters in 15 states over 18 months. We have sat side by side telling stories in the airport at 1am as our flight is delayed, knowing we’ll be up teaching at 8am. We have been through a lot together. He was there for me when my father passed away five years ago, and he and Rhonda have had me to their home, here in L.A. and also after they moved to Nashville. Randy trusted me to mentor his son, when John entered the training and consulting business with us. And Randy was the one who believed in me, that as a non-attorney mediator, I had something to teach to lawyers and judges at Pepperdine Law School and for the California Center for Judicial Education and Research. He named me Director of Pepperdine’s Mediating the Litigated Case program, a position I held for 7 years, until he had left the University.
So, nobody blamed me when I choked up while accepting the award. It was the proudest moment of my professional life (so far).
In order to save repeating what others have already done today, I’m going to point you to two very kind and thoughtful summaries of what yesterday’s conference meant to these folks:
Jan Schau’s Mediation Insights: The Wisdom of My Mentors
Joe Markowitz’s Mediation’s Place: The Funnel
There is also some thoughtful commentary here from Joe on attorney, judge and non-attorney mediators and what each brings to the table (and a candid assessment on what they don’t).
A final thought, for mediators, attending conferences and training courses is important – not just for what you learn, but for the opportunity to share the experience with other colleagues. As I said in my keynote yesterday, our profession is an individual one where we are all, as my freind Alex Williams like to say, in our own foxhole fighting our own battle. Coming to conferences and training courses refreshes us, keeps us tuned up with new tools and refreshing old ones, and keeps us in touch with those around us who share the burden of sitting between two or more people who are in an intractable fight, and thinking that we can do something to help them. It can be lonely work. I find it’s always good to get together with friends and colleagues who are doing this work, and share our stories, our challenges, and our learnings. Just food for thought…