My first lessons in civility were at my mother’s kitchen table, where she held court. Butter pecan coffee cake and hot tea held the center, while the conversation and laughter of neighbors, friends, and family encircled the perimeter.

While teaching English at the City Colleges of Chicago, food proved to be a most natural topic for discussion and writing. Sharing stories of the spices, cooking methods and culinary holiday traditions of our lives helped us to bridge the differences among the members of an extraordinarily diverse class. We cemented our new bonds at the end of the semester by each bringing a favorite food to share. Desktops were cleared of notebooks in favor of such delicacies as kolaches, spicy tamales, aloo gobi, gnocchi and kare-kare.

During my assignment in domestic relations court, chocolate chip cookies on pretrial Thursdays were most effective in defusing high emotions, allowing us to focus on negotiating a peaceful resolution for warring litigants.

So, upon my arrival at our Illinois Supreme Court, you might imagine what comfort it was to discover that the justices not only live together during term but savor their meals together, too. It is in the court and conference room where we hear, discuss and rule on cases. But it is in the dining room where we exchange the more intimate details of our families, travels, and passions; it is the breaking of bread that helps us advance genuine collegiality.

In the early 1800s, Chief Justice John Marshall recognized the benefits of camaraderie among jurists and arranged for U.S. Supreme Court justices to dine and board together during their terms. Sadly, time has worn away those traditions for most jurisdictions.

Members of the Illinois bench and bar, I invite you to raise a fork in tribute to courtesy, gentility, decorum, tact, grace and inclusion. Respectful and dignified behavior is essential to our professional success, and what delicious, palate-expanding fun we can experience together along the way!