The death of Janet Reno marks the passing of not just an individual but of an era where disagreement was aired with respect and civility. Janet led an important period of transformation for our community and our nation. She was unique and broke barriers all her life.
In 1963, she was the only woman in her graduating class of Harvard Law School. She was Florida’s first female state attorney and the first female U.S. attorney general. Janet also represented a belief that the power of the law, which she deeply respected, should be used to improve the lives of everyone. Ethics, integrity and fairness were values she lived by.
Janet helped redefine how we view crime. When our office created the first domestic-crimes unit, domestic violence was not seen as a crime against women and children; it was a private family matter. When Janet took the plight of crime victims seriously, helping lead the cause of victims’ rights in Florida, some thought she was interfering in the court process. When Janet pushed her concern for the child victims of sexual abuse, some felt such crimes were fiction. Today, we take these important advances for granted, locally and nationally.
Janet’s personal integrity influenced all who knew her. She was always able to reach out to those who disagreed with her and worked to achieve a solution. Janet believed in problem-solving, not in problem-creating.
The fact that she was the last U.S. attorney general confirmed by a unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate shows how she was able to reach out and touch even those who might disagree with her.
As both U.S. attorney general and as Dade state attorney, Janet maintained a solid ethical foundation in everything she did and every decision she made.
She believed that as long as you acted in an ethical manner, you could always handle whatever followed.
While some may dispute some of her decisions during her 40-year public career, she epitomized integrity and public service. That’s indisputable.
Janet held firmly to the belief that one should always hold the good of others before ever considering the good for oneself.
This is the selfless creed that she practiced, and that she lived.
Many of us were blessed to have had her as a friend, a mentor and an inspiration. What a wonderful woman.
We should all feel blessed to have had her in our lives.
Katherine Fernández Rundle is the Miami-Dade state attorney.