The Wisdom of George Patton

“If I do my full duty, the rest will take care of itself.” – General George S. Patton

George S. PattonPatton’s quote always gave me hope. To me, the quote meant that if I just worked hard, played by the rules, and treated people well then everything would work out okay. To this day I want to believe that concept is true for everyone: that if we just work hard and play by the rules then everything will turn out okay. I suspect most people agree and wish that it were true.

The first time I heard that quote, I was a seventeen year old boy at the United States Air Force Academy. During Basic Cadet Training, all cadets are given a small book containing “knowledge” they must memorize. The book contained many thoughtful quotes on duty, honor, and country, but Patton’s quote on duty was the one I found most memorable. It was as if someone handed me the key to success in only thirteen words. In an artificial world like basic training that quote is entirely true—if you do your job everything runs smoothly. As long as you sound off, march correctly, maintain a sharp uniform, and push yourself physically everything works out well. The instructors don’t yell as much and you get to eat without being harassed.

Sometimes, however, real life is not so simple. Many people work a full day, pay taxes, serve the community, and strive to make their children’s life better than their own. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond their control, and despite their best efforts, not everything works out okay. Other people failed to honor their commitments. A business idea is stolen. An accident happened. A natural disaster occurred. Regardless of the specific situation, these people have been good, solid citizens and have suffered some misfortune. They deserve more than bad luck.

In many cases, the legal system is the only avenue for people like these to make sure “the rest will take care of itself.” For example, a computer programmer that devoted significant resources to design a computer program that is now being used without permission by a rival company can ask a court to order the rival business to fairly compensate the programmer. A woman that suffered a stroke because of a drug defect can use the legal system to compensate her for her injuries if the court or jury determines that the drug manufacturer knew of the risk but failed to properly warn the woman. Without the legal system, these two people would be left footing the bill for situations caused by others.

And that is the reason I left the Air Force to become a lawyer. I thought that I could do more to help people as a lawyer than an Air Force officer. The American legal system is not a perfect animal. The law and justice are not necessarily the same thing. But, sometimes it is the only way to make sure the right people pay for the bill. My goal is to be the part of the system that gives the people that work hard and play by the rules someone who will work as hard as possible for them to make sure “the rest will take care of itself.”

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