I awoke this morning to an email with an attached copy of a press article from the UK. It is my usual practice to read some of the UK newspapers each day to try to stay current with what is happening in the land of my birth. This article was different, however, because it was about me and compared me, or some of my accomplishments, to the man widely credited as the greatest Englishman of all time, Winston Churchill.
The short article was published in the Cornish Guardian / West Briton (the highest circulation weekly newspaper in the UK) and discussed my work on behalf of victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and child abuse. It made me happy and proud, not because of what it said about me, but rather because of what it said about the person who has most inspired me, my father.
Under the headline “US delivers a glowing verdict to lawyer” it began:
“THE FIRST Brit to have his name up in lights at New York's Times Square was Winston Churchill; the second was a man from Par who you may not have heard of.
But, across the pond, the name of .. lawyer Peter Romary is far more familiar.
He was ranked as one of the top 40 trial lawyers under the age of 40 in America by the National Law Journal (NLJ). [Note: that was in 2002]..He also received the NLJ Pro Bono Award – a papally-blessed knighthood – and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor….”
The article went on to say:
“These achievements were bestowed due to Peter's pro bono (voluntary) work representing female and child victims of domestic and sexual abuse and assisting legislation to help prevent it…Representing 100 victims per year for more than 12 years, he has donated services valued at more than $45 million to victims…… Despite a list of achievements longer than both his arms, Peter has managed to stay humble and grounded.” [I think there are some who may disagree with that last part]
This was wonderful to read, because it went on to talk about my father and the influence he had on me. He was a lawyer, and then a judge and someone I spent hours with as a young man travelling to fencing practice and events throughout the UK (the second comparison to Churchill was that we both won the Public Schools fencing title). We used to talk for hours about the law; life and whatever else came up (when I wasn’t trying to sleep or listening to some inane rubbish on the car cassette player.)
It was my father that inspired me to become a lawyer; it was from him that I learned that the law could, and should be used, as a tool for good. He once joked with me that if I had given $45 million, in money, services or a combination of the two, to a political party I would be an Ambassador for the US or a member of the House of Lords in the UK. He was right, but I did the right thing because of what he had taught me.
I was very glad to see what I had said about him in print in a UK newspaper, I shall repeat it here:
"My father was and still is a huge influence on me and I followed in his footsteps in the hope I could be even half the person he is," said Peter….."As I once said, there is no problem walking in the footsteps or standing in the shadow of someone when that someone is a great person."
There are certain people who just serve as role models to others. They inspire you without having to say a thing; they make you better without needing to utter a word. Over twenty years ago I was asked to do something for the benefit of my father; I did it. No questions asked, no regrets, no second guessing; there never will be. It was almost twenty years before he knew of it (I hasten to add that it was nothing illegal) simply because I knew he would be embarrassed that anyone had “made a fuss” or gone out of their way for him.
What is most inspiring of all is that my grandfather died when my father was still a boy. My father has worked hard for everything he has ever had. First he became an accountant, then a lawyer and then a judge. No one gave him a leg up or a handout, he just got on with it. Whenever I had setbacks, whenever I felt put upon or whenever I was told I did not belong (a refrain heard too often by immigrants) I thought of his example and pushed forward.
We all need role models, leaders, and inspirational figures. I have been fortunate in my life to have had a few great ones, but the greatest of these is my father. So, I thank the press of my home nation for the comparison to Winston Churchill. It is however my sincere hope that one day I will be worthy of comparison to an even greater man: John Romary. I love you, Dad!