Over the weekend, I was again struck by thoughts of the past. I was listening to an Internet-based radio channel, when up pops “The Impossible Dream,” from the Broadway show, The Man of La Mancha. The show is based upon the classic work by Miguel Cervantes, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. The musical was first performed on Broadway during the mid-1960s, and garnered several awards. So, you may ask, “why does it stand out” to this barrister?
Well, let me respond first with a story. Almost exactly twenty (20) years ago, I was struck by the sudden loss of one of my professor-mentors, Steven M. Goldstein. Professor Goldstein was both an active professor at The Florida State University College of Law, the Associate Dean of the College, and an extremely active post-conviction litigator. On the latter aspect, Steven was extremely active with a now-defunct organization called Volunteer Lawyers’ Resource Center (“VLRC”). VLRC was dedicated to providing relief to those individuals confined to Florida’s Death Row, awaiting execution. In many cases, those on Death Row were — either individuals who had received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial; could not be labeled “the worst of the worst;” or were actually innocent of the actual murders for which they were tried and convicted (e.g., Jesse Tafero and Bernard Bolender).
Steve Goldstein was taken from us during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday break. He was an avid jogger, in wonderful physical shape. He took such activities very seriously, as there was apparently a heart issue that afflicted — at the very least — both his father and paternal grandfather. Indeed, it was this same issue that caused Steven to collapse during that holiday weekend. His friends, including Professor Nat Stern, wondered what had happened to Steve during that weekend. Stern visited Goldstein’s home, to discover the latter’s sudden death.
Upon my return to Tallahassee the following Monday, I learned of my professor-mentor’s death. I was thunderstruck — on several levels. Goldstein was not only a brilliant, dedicated professor, but an accomplished barrister and an individual dedicated to speaking out for the students at FSU Law. Shortly, thereafter, a memorial service was held at the local synagogue. The service was standing-room only — indeed, as it should have been for Steven. I remember, standing there, listening to one person after another recount the extraordinary nature of Steven Goldstein. However, one particular eulogy stood out.
One of Steve’s close friends recounted a canoe trip — I believe on the Chattahoochee River. He described how Steve had — suddenly broken into song — “The Impossible Dream.” As described, Steven sung the song with perfect pitch:
To dream … the impossible dream ….
To fight … the unbeatable foe ….
To bear … with unbearable sorrow ….
To run … where the brave dare not go ….
To right … the unrightable wrong ….
To love … pure and chaste from afar ….
To try … when your arms are too weary ….
To reach … the unreachable star ….
This is my quest, to follow that star ….
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ….
To fight for the right, without question or pause ….
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ….
And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I’m laid to my rest ….
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach … the unreachable star ….
Indeed, the song captured this essence and nobility of Steven Goldstein. He inspired me, as do the words of the song he sang with such eloquence. The overall effect upon me? Well, I held a public interest law fellowship. Up until that moment, I was dedicated to working with Legal Services on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota — in fulfillment of my Fellowship work. As noble as perhaps this locale would have proven, I immediately shifted my Fellowship activity to work at VLRC.
Perhaps more than a shift in a public interest law commitment, the song — as personified by Steven — helped to ‘gel’ a long-term commitment to the betterment of the law, and to the moral/ethical elevation of those who practice law. Being a lawyer means something — it means working to improve society. It means — often — tilting at windmills. It means dedicating one’s life to something bigger than the acquisition of money and material goods.
So, twenty-years later, I will note the passing of Steven Goldstein. I also acknowledge the equal toll wrought just over the past few years with the tragic, and again vastly premature passing of my other professor-mentor, Steven Gey — a victim of ALS. I would only request that those of you reading this entry listen and truly hear the message personified by both of these beautiful giants.