The portrait of a true American

Christopher Anderson is a true American.

This does not mean he eats apple pie and tosses a baseball around in his backyard after every meal. This does not mean he has the Lee Greenwood ode to patriotism “God Bless the USA” blaring through his headphones 24/7. This does not mean he dresses up as the 1980’s cartoon icon G.I. Joe every casual Friday.

Anderson is a true American because he holds fast to one of this country’s most honored tenets: helping those unable to help themselves.

Emma Lazarus’s 1883 sonnet “The New Colossus,” which is engraved on a bronze plaque mounted inside the Statue of Liberty, the one symbol synonymous with all American ideals, concludes with the plea “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.” The Declaration of Independence proclaims the United States as a nation which fights for and defends “liberty and justice for all.”

The American shores have historically been the safe haven for those who have been discarded by others as “refuse.” The United States has long been considered the land of opportunity, a place where even exiles can convert themselves into valuable, contributing members of functional society. Those who call the country home have built that home as part of a tradition of redeeming themselves and their people.

Today, Anderson works tirelessly to carry on that very tradition.

He serves on the Board of Directors for the Athens Justice Project, an initiative with the mission of assisting “low income individuals with pending criminal charges in achieving a fair legal outcome and in becoming productive, law-abiding community members.” AJP argues that most individuals involved with the criminal justice system lack financial resources, job skills, housing, education and treatment for disorders such as drug addiction and mental illness.

Anderson says the criminal justice system acts in an uncharacteristically unjust fashion when it insists on “everlasting punishment.” “It used to be that if you committed a crime, you served your time, and once you’ve paid the debt to society, you get to proceed with your life,” Anderson explained. He posits that there are too many restrictions on the behavior of convicted criminals (where they can live, where they can work, etc.) even after they have finished serving their sentences. “The crime follows them everywhere,” he argues, “and makes them virtually ineligible for rehabilitation into society. Eventually, they find that the only profitable option is to turn to crime again.”

Anderson and his colleagues seek to break this cycle of crime by offering legal representation, counseling and other social services to effect “productive personal growth and self-sustaining work” for their clients.

He is in the beginning stages of an extensive lobbying project which seeks relaxation of the laws which hinder convicts’ productive, successful lives after their sentence. Anderson also promotes civilian education about the justice system. “I want citizens to see how much strain it’s placing on people who come out,” he said. He encourages people to contact legislators about this issue as well.

“What I truly want,” he explains, “is for people to realize that punishment alone is not the be-all, end-all solution to crime.”

The endeavor of aiding the unfortunate carries over to Anderson’s formal occupation as well. He is an attorney for the Timmons, Warnes & Anderson, L.L.P. firm. One of his areas of practice is family law. He often deals with cases involving sexual abuse and domestic violence. His work in this arena is focused on helping victims break ties with their tormentors. “One of the most important parts of my job is helping relationships dissolve with as little interruption to people’s lives as possible,” he said.

He further serves abused victims by volunteering with Project Safe, where he helps clients receive protective orders. He said that the exposure he has had to the effects of domestic violence in his line of work makes the mission of Project Safe all the more poignant to him. “I’ve seen how difficult it can be to escape the cycle of abuse,” he explained.

His compassion is not limited to human beings, either. He makes frequent donations to Best Friends Mobile Veterinary Services, an animal rescue and no-kill shelter for pets that have been dubbed ineligible for adoption. “I’ve always been a supporter of no-kill shelters,” he proclaims, “because humans can be occasionally callous, but I don’t believe death is the best solution.” He asserts that just because these animals cannot be adopted because of disease, injury or other factors does not mean they are not equally entitled to their dignity and a comfortable life.

No, he’s never hit a home run at Yankee Stadium or won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest, but Christopher Anderson is a true American. He is a man who espouses “liberty and justice for all,” including the “wretched refuse.”

Possible Add-ons

1. Contact information for Athens Justice Project, Anderson’s firm, Project Safe and Best Friends.

2. Bullet points detailing Anderson’s credentials

3. Trivia box to list some of the more light-hearted details of Anderson’s personal life.

4. Brief Q&A to learn more about Anderson’s hobbies, favorite TV shows, foods, etc.

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