“We can stop young men dying.”  “You are heroes and freedom fighters.”  “I need everyone’s help.”  “Intrigued by NAPD’s formation.”  “Believes in NAPD.”  “NAPD seems open to everyone.”  “Amazed by the rapid development.”  “This gives people what is going on throughout the country.” “We have needed a national PD community for a long time.”  “NAPD seems to share resources.”  “This is a big deal.”  “I’m intrigued by the collaborative approach.”  “It’s about time.”  “The websites and webinars are terrific.”  “We can’t wait for others to make a difference.”  “The enthusiasm didn’t get left in Dayton.”  “You guys are pitching in.”  “NAPD provides something for our public defenders that aren’t provided anywhere else.”  “NAPD will inspire our lawyers to be more zealous in their practice.” 

These are the voices we heard in Chicago describing how they viewed NAPD, why they felt it was needed, and what drove normal people to get on a plane and leave Knoxville or New Orleans and head to Chicago where record snowfall and sub-zero temperatures awaited. 

We also heard those same voices describing where they wanted NAPD to be in five years:  “NAPD is the ‘go-to shop’ electronically.”  “NAPD helped limit workload for public defenders.”  “Seen as the training leader.”  “We sustained energy that we began with.”  “We established best practices.”  “We helped citizens understand our clients are not demons.”  “We were a vital voice in reducing over-criminalization and incarceration.”  “NAPD is a virtual nationwide community.”  “We were in the forefront of hiring diverse staff.”  “NAPD made us proud to be public defenders.”   “Created pride and power.”  “Ended racial disparity in the criminal justice system.”  “Website is a watering hole in the desert.”  “NAPD made sure it wasn’t just for lawyers.”  “Unwavering voice for clients.”  “Client centered advocacy.”  “Standard bearer for equal justice and high quality.” 

One last voice stood out.  It was a collective voice.  It said that in five years NAPD had become an organization that enabled public defenders, private lawyers, investigators, mitigation specialists, social workers, advocacy organizations to SHARE—share ideas, share resources, share power.  NAPD is about public defense sharing what they’ve got to make everyone better at serving clients.

And then we left, back to our homes, back to our offices, back to our clients.  And the hard work continues to build an organization from the ground up, an organization that will make a difference, the unwavering voice for public defense, NAPD.