Everyday Meaning: Learning From History
Contributing Author: Elizabeth Ortiz, APAAC Executive Director, Phoenix (AZ)
Why did you choose to become a prosecutor? What do you see as your role in the community? These seemingly simple questions may lead to a recognition of how the decisions you make — big and small — can and do significantly impact your community, thereby bringing meaning to every aspect of your work.
What does that have to do with your own personal wellness? Everything.
Our work as prosecutors does more than just occupy our days. None of us chose this profession for the salary or job perks. We did not choose it for the hours. We did not choose it for the plush offices and large expense accounts. We chose to become prosecutors — to become ministers of justice — because we wanted a job where we make a difference, and where the guiding principle is to “do the right thing.”
Of course, then we started our job and found ourselves with stacks of cases, a schedule full of court hearings, and countless people wanting a piece of our time. There are never enough hours in the day to review all the body worn camera footage, return victims’ phone calls, and respond to motions. In our quest to get it all done, have we lost sight of why we became prosecutors?
The importance of reminding ourselves why we chose to become prosecutors, and the crucial role we play in the community is reenforced by a training developed by the United States Holocaust Museum, entitled What You Do Matters: Lessons From the Holocaust. The program begins by asking why you chose to become a law enforcement professional and what you see as your role in the community. Utilizing history as a vehicle, the program examines the “slippery slope” of German police under the Nazis as their mission shifted from protectors of the people to enforcers of Nazi ideology. As a facilitator for the training, I have seen first-hand how it guides participants to re-identify their purpose — remembering why they chose to become a prosecutor and refocusing the lens through which they make daily decisions.
Again, what does this have to do your own personal wellness? I submit that spending our precious time on matters which we find meaningful, contributes to our sense of wellness. Mindful recognition of our role in society, and how even seemingly innocuous decisions can and do significantly impact our community, brings meaning to the otherwise mundane. And with that meaning, we find purpose, we find clarity, we find wellness.
Information regarding how to bring What You Do Matters: Lessons From the Holocaust to your jurisdiction can be found at: https://wydminstitute.com or by emailing Elizabeth Burton Ortiz at Elizabeth.Ortiz@apaacaz.com.
Elizabeth Ortiz is the Executive Director for the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council located in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a member of the National District Attorneys Association’s Board and Executive Committee.