Bernstein brings his inspirational message to Jackson

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Photo courtesy of Parrish Stahl

By Parrish Stahl
disAbility Connections

The professional resume of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard H. Bernstein is incredible by any measure. The 42-year-old is a member of what some people call the first family of Michigan law and for several years was employed by the legendary Sam Bernstein Law Firm out of Farmington Hills. He learned from his family that community service is honorable and necessary for a thriving society.

Bernstein was the first blind person to run for statewide office in Michigan elected to the Wayne State University Board of Governors in November 2002 at the age of 28. While in that role he utilized his immense people skills and legal talents from 2002 to 2010 serving the people and giving of himself spending two of those years as vice chair and two more as chair. His boundless energy also allowed him during this time to be an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan. In 2014, he began an eight-year term with the Michigan Supreme Court. 

As the keynote speaker at the annual disAbility Awareness Dinner, hosted by disAbility Connections and held at the Jackson Country Club on Oct. 5, the stories expressed how being a person with blindness has made him a better judge and a more compassionate individual.

The large gathering was mesmerized by his tales of being a world-class athlete competing in over 20 marathons all around the globe including the daunting Ironman competition at the age of 34 in 2008, that consisted of a 112-mile bike ride, 26.2 mile marathon and 2.4-mile swim.

Bernstein’s young promising life and athletic career were changed forever in 2012 while training in New York when he was hit by a bicyclist at a high rate of speed. He spent over 10 weeks hospitalized with multiple broken bones. His incredible will brought him to compete again the following year completing another marathon. The athlete was no longer competing with anyone but himself and immense pain.

Bernstein says, “Those who have to live with pain discover it becomes part of who you are; pain becomes a situation you learn how to adapt to and work with and most importantly, you learn how to respect it.  At mile 18 of my initial marathon after my accident the pain was so severe I remember looking up at the creator and praying that he would give me strength to allow me to stay conscious. We all have these moments. Most importantly, you’re able to find a sense of peace with your creator when dealing with pain. We can’t spend our time, energy and our effort trying to get over something. Sometimes we have no other option than to get on with it. People in that situation will do what is hard and often achieve what is great. Life experiences are given to us and create a better world in the process. 

“If I hadn’t had an accident I wouldn’t be as good a judge or as compassionate. Extraordinary things can, do and will happen for us all.”

It will be amazing to see what this remarkable human being does in the coming decades.

 

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