Yesterday, while writing an article about our cultural divide I received the devastating news that a close friend and a man I admired greatly had passed.
Fred Levin was one of the greatest attorneys who ever lived. His victory over big tobacco in a groundbreaking lawsuit is estimated to save over 100,000 lives every year. He is known for being one of the finest courtroom litigators. His pioneering of structured settlements and tort law literally revolutionizing the way clients could be benefited through the legal profession. For his many accomplishments the Law School at the University of Florida bears his name.
I will never forget the final conversation I had with Fred. Before he said goodbye, he said, “I love you.” It is in those three words, I love you, that I think we must find our way forward. What you do not know about our relationship was that while Fred deeply respected my opinion he deeply disagreed with me. Fred and I were both people who could articulate our positions with passion and discernment without taking cheap shots at each other’s character. We had many conversations about issues we disagreed on but we were always able to end those discussions with kindness and civility.
Fred loved me and I loved him.
It is useless to argue about what is true if you do not care about the people your truth will influence. If you are arguing for social justice, you cannot be motivated by a selfish end. Your purpose cannot be to increase your platform, to increase your wealth or to somehow benefit your life. The goal of social equality cannot be a vengeful reversal of a broken system. It must be for a true and genuine love for those who are marginalized.
If you are arguing for free and fair elections you must not take up such a cause so that you can retain power for yourself. The desire for open elections must be a world where the voice of the individual should be heard and valued. Hate and violence cannot be directed at those who do not see or understand your position. They too cannot be marginalized.
What has become clearly evident is that people on both sides have developed deep lines of hatred for those who do not hold their positions. They use words like racist and bigot for people who simply disagree with their position. For me in a time where cultural division is rife, lines are being drawn and love is lost I wanted to analyze why Fred and I could love each other while still holding strong disagreements.
Here are ten reasons Fred and I had such wonderful debates while still remaining friends.
1. Fred and I always focused on the issue and did not connect moral judgements to what we believed were wrongly held positions.
2. We were committed to finding the truth not proving we were correct.
3. We respected each other enough to seek out understanding instead of assuming. We attempted to find the logical reasons for why the other person would hold the conclusion rather than assume they were evil or hateful.
4. We looked for common ground and emphasized the places we did agree.
5. We thoughtfully listened to and considered each other’s ideas.
6. We were not afraid of being proved wrong.
7. We believed the position we held would genuinely help the other if they could be convinced.
8. We did not use cheap tricks, name calling, or emotionally driven tactics
9. We could concede when a point we made had been proved wrong.
10. We viewed debate as a healthy way to learn and grow.
As I say goodbye to a man I deeply admired and am honored to have had such a unique friendship with my heart is torn. As I reflect on Fred's wonderful life, my hope is that others will be inspired to lay down their hate, to fight for what they believe is true, and continue to love those who do not view the world the way they do.
I love you too, Fred. I will miss you and our conversations very much. Rest in Peace.