Incoming president gives moving speech

 By Cynthia Price

Legal News

The formidable stature of the new State Bar of Michigan (SBM) President, W. Anthony Jenkins, shows not only in his height, but also in his character.
A Harvard graduate who earned  his J.D. from New York University School of Law, Jenkins is currently a member, and Chief Diversity Officer, at Dickinson Wright’s Detroit office. His long-term involvement with various bar associations (Detroit Metropolitan, SBM, Wolverine, American) is vast, but it is his on-the-ground commitment to helping others that shines. 
His practice includes real estate, municipal law and finance, and impressive expertise in minority-owned business legal matters. He is happy to share that expertise as he did when voluntarily chairing the certification committee of the MI Minority Business Development Council.
Following his inauguration by Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly, Jenkins approached the podium with obvious emotion. “You know you spend some time thinking about what this moment will feel like,” he said, “but it still takes you by surprise.”
And as he recounted the story of his life to SBM members gathered at the Amway Grand, it was clear why.
Jenkins came from humble but thoroughly upstanding beginnings. After his parents relocated from Birmingham, Ala., he was raised in a highly diverse Detroit neighborhood. Neighbors from every ethnicity formed the village that helped raise him, because it was “the kind of neighborhood where folks looked out after each other.”
He said he learned early on that “hard work, playing by the rules and taking advantage of every opportunity offered” would never fail him. He referred to this lesson several times as he told his story.
When he was in eighth grade and already 6’ 4”, the basketball coach approached him to ask why he was not on the team. Jenkins responded that it conflicted with band where he was a cellist, but the coach helped him work something out. This was the beginning of a career that would help him attend Harvard, and see the world as part of international teams in Europe and South America.
In ninth grade, he again took advantage of opportunity in the form of a program called “A Better Chance,” which placed gifted but underprivileged youth in private boarding schools. Though moving to Minnesota involved a healthy dose of culture shock, he excelled. The background he received there, along with his principal’s advice to “rise above the ignorance of others” stood him in good stead for his path to success.
Such experiences also made him promise to work all his life on offering similar opportunities to those in need. “One way I hope to deliver on that promise is through being president of the State Bar,” Jenkins told the crowd of well-wishers.