Albert Stark never planned to be the elder statesman he has become. A
child of the 1960s, he has described his younger self as "a hippie."
He graduated from hippie to prosecutor in due time, but quit that job
when his wife, Ellen, a microbiologist – and also a social activist –
"all but forced" him to leave what she considered to be, in the
turbulent years when civil rights leaders were being persecuted and
killed, "the enemy camp."
Stark eventually, and reluctantly, set out to build a law firm at the
urging of his father, the late Sidney Stark, with whom he practiced
law after leaving the prosecutor’s office. In the subsequent years
Stark has built Stark & Stark, with headquarters on Lenox Drive, into
a prominent full service law firm with offices in Marlton,
Philadephia, and New York.
While building his firm, and concentrating his own practice on
representing accident victims with brain injuries, Stark has continued
to give back to Trenton, the city where he grew up. After working in
his firm for more than 40 years, he has been able to free up some time
to work at the craft that was his first love.
"I always wanted to be a writer," he said in a U.S. 1 interview soon
after his first book, "Beyond the Bar: Challenges in a Lawyer’s Life,"
was published several years ago. He has now combined his generosity
toward Trenton with his drive to chronicle his times by writing "A War
Against Terrorism Through My Lens" and donating all proceeds to the
College of New Jersey’s Center for Social Justice. On Thursday,
October 19, at 5 p.m. he is holding a book signing at the College of
New Jersey. The event is free, and signed copies of the new book are
available to anyone who makes a contribution in any amount to the
college. Call 609-771-2393 for more information.
His book is a commentary on social and political events occurring
between 1991 and 2005, a period he sees as beginning on note of
optimism and ending in greed, intolerance, and geopolitical insanity.
Here is an excerpt, beginning with a reflection on Bill Clinton’s
second term as president:
by Albert Stark
An African American singer, a Jewish female justice, and an evangelist
set the tone for his second term. Jessye Norman, cloaked in crimson,
sang an American medley of "God Bless America," her full mane of hair
waving as she blasted refrains. Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first
woman justice of the Supreme Court to swear in a president of the
United States. Billy Graham gave the invocation.
In his second inaugural address, Clinton took his own ideas, the best
of the Democratic platform and the best of the Republican platform and
wove them together into a centrist fabric. The boy from Hope tried to
sell Democratic ideals inculcated in the party’s platform for over
Tired of the "L" word, a brand as scorned as the scarlet "A" at the
time of the Salem witches, Clinton abandoned liberal principles. He
spoke about the twentieth century and about building a bridge to the
twenty-first. Sermonizing, he painted Utopia with a broad brush. In
his "land of new promises," Eden would be created. Polite applause
echoed skepticism. Was his speech a wish or promise?
Madeline Albright became the first female secretary of state. As
spring arrived in 1997, one thousand days remained until the
millennium. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had reached 7,000. A
sense of relief spread across the country when, in early June, a jury
found Timothy McVeigh guilty and sentenced him to death. A leap of
faith infused the justice system. The stock market jumped to 7,400.
The burgeoning "computer industry." the Chicago Bulls basketball team,
and Tiger Woods, a young golf phenomenon, dominated the headlines. The
United States was on a roll.
Little did I know that a mere four years later the lessons taught by
the Romans, Christians and Jews would be forgotten.
Then 1998 brought us the Clinton sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky. The
scandal took on a life of its own and became a scandal not just of the
president but also of the press and prosecutor. To divert focus,
Clinton created a crisis with Iraq which almost brought the United
States to war. At the last minute, Saddam Hussein agreed to weapons
inspections. Meanwhile, the United States spent billions to move ships
To farther switch the focus from his improprieties, missiles attacked
terrorist camps in Sudan and Afghanistan. Seventy-five cruise missiles
worth one million dollars apiece were fired at an individual, Osama
bin Laden, not at a country. For the first time, the United States was
at war against an individual, not a nation. The world had not only
superpowers and supermarkets but now also superpeople.
Bin Laden retaliated with an attack on the USS Cole and on embassies
abroad. An escalating religious war, a war between two civilizations,
between the rich and the poor, had begun; and I wondered to myself
where it would end. Reading the newspapers was a horror. The United
States was using terrorist tactics against Muslims bent on destroying
the United States. Would civil rights be a thing of the past in a few
Who were the terrorists? Muslims, the media proclaimed.
I imagined how angry a Muslim felt when he walked into a mosque in
Cordoba, Spain, seeing the desecration and the transformation of a
Muslim place to a Christian cathedral. Wouldn’t it be the same feeling
a Jew had when the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem was under Muslim control?
Or how Judah Maccabee felt when he found idols in a synagogue?
There was a war going on where the aristocracy was trying to bespeak a
moral superiority to protect itself and put down all others that did
not agree with them. Was this not the same cleansing philosophy of
Queen Isabella in the Inquisition and Hitler with the Holocaust?
I saw my Jewish heritage as an opportunity to understand the suffering
of others and wanted to learn more about why the establishment did not
see the long-term value of lifting up the poor who, if not lifted up,
would be the source of their destruction.
In December, 1998, I had the opportunity to visit North Vietnam. A
woman in her mid-thirties told me, "My father went to war. I was about
two years old. My brother was six. One night we left our home in Hanoi
about midnight. My mother loaded what we had on a bicycle. My brother
pushed another. My mother was carrying me. We walked and walked in the
dark. One of the bicycles broke. We went into the countryside to live.
My brother went to school in tunnels. My father was lucky. He wasn’t
killed. He came home after four years. He worked for the government.
We had rations. We were very poor. Since 1990, with the open market,
things are better now." She pointed to two boys. "Those boys make
about $12 a month. They work six days a week from morning until dark."
I had been in the jungles of Laos with its bomb craters two years
before, where I hiked up a rocky trail that still showed signs of
Agent Orange’s destruction and wondered how an American infantryman
could have survived in the environment. I was sad for the 3.5 to 5
million Vietnamese who were killed in ten years of fighting, but even
more pathetically sorry for the Vietnam veterans and the families of
fifty thousand young Americans who would have been my age if they had
not lost their lives. I had been too embarrassed to call myself an
How, I asked myself could intelligent men send B52s laden with napalm
and helicopters with machine guns to burn and shoot those brave souls
who could not read or write and who had not traveled more than thirty
miles from their birthplaces? How could the United States talk about
human rights when, in reality, one human error after another made by
men who did not or would not understand escalated a needless, useless
war? Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson had never been
to Vietnam. George H. W. Bush had never been to Iran or Iraq. Bill
Clinton had never been to Hanoi, North Korea, or Baghdad.
Was that the problem? The leader had never met the "enemy." Worse yet,
he didn’t try to understand them.