Wells Fargo General Counsel Allen Parker was awarded the inaugural Constitutional Medallion Sept. 17 — the 231st anniversary of the signing of the Constitution — for his leadership in supporting and promoting the Constitution, our nation’s democracy, and civic engagement during a legal career that has spanned decades.
iCivics and The Constitutional Sources Project, or ConSource, created the award as a way to recognize leadership in core civic and constitutional values — with the goal of ensuring that current citizens and future generations understand and trust in the democratic principles, processes, and institutions set forth by the Constitution.
"Allen Parker is the perfect recipient of our inaugural Constitution Medallion, as he truly embodies Thomas Jefferson's ideal of the citizen lawyer,” said Julie Silverbrook, executive director of ConSource. “Allen is not only an exceptional attorney, but also a highly engaged citizen and an exemplary leader. He is clearly committed to improving civics education and promoting civility and civic engagement. We are grateful to Allen for his support of ConSource and iCivics, and for his leadership in calling for greater investment in civics education across the nation."
Parker joined Wells Fargo in March 2017 as the company’s general counsel — leading a team of more than 500 lawyers and nearly 1,000 team members — and as a member of the company’s Operating Committee. Before joining Wells Fargo, Parker spent nearly 33 years at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York, culminating with the role of presiding partner, the firm’s most senior position.
Wells Fargo Stories asked Parker to share more about his views on the Constitution and democracy and why he supports organizations like iCivics and ConSource.
Q: The iCivics program was founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to improve civic education by helping teachers engage their students on the importance of democracy and active citizenship. What are your memories from school as it relates to the topic?
One of the reasons I developed and maintained an interest in our nation’s founding is that I was fortunate to have capable and enthusiastic teachers. In high school and college, I received a solid grounding in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — and I spent a good bit of time with the Federalist Papers and (Alexis) de Tocqueville. I then continued this study when I was in graduate school and law school.
Today, civic education in the U.S. is mostly uninspiring and, on many occasions, inequitable. This makes the iCivics program so critical, as we work to cultivate new generations of thoughtful and active citizens through a range of resources tailored to the needs of classroom teachers.
Q: You’ve been awarded the inaugural Constitutional Medallion for your “leadership in supporting the Constitution, understanding of and respect for our democracy, and promoting civic engagement.” Where does your passion on these topics stem from?
Our written Constitution and our republic are precious gifts from the founding generation to our generation and, I hope, to future generations. The basic machinery of the republican government remains to this day, through many years and many challenges, elegant and beautiful. And perhaps its greatest achievement is the separation of powers — a concept that, with its checks and balances, recognizes and is built to counter the imperfect fragility of human nature.
As someone who has chosen a career path built on understanding and acting as a steward of our legal system, it’s important to me to get involved with programs that help instill the same sense of respect and gratitude for democracy and our Constitution in the next generation. I feel it’s one of the most relevant and important ways I can give back to my community.
Q: You’ve invested your time supporting The Constitutional Sources Project. What are your hopes for the program?
The Constitutional Sources Project works to connect hundreds of thousands of American citizens of all ages — including, crucially, young persons — each year to our nation’s constitutional history. ConSource does this not only by maintaining a freely accessible digital library of historical sources related to the creation, ratification, and amendment of the Constitution, but also by providing resources and professional development opportunities to educators who are looking to bring those primary source documents into the classroom.
I admire this work because I believe that no matter how insightful a commentator may be, there is simply no substitute for immersing yourself in the original Constitution source materials.
The work of iCivics and ConSourse is critical to the task of ensuring that today’s young people, and the generations that follow them, understand the genius of our republic. These organizations help bring to life both the Constitution and the framers who created it. Only through that effort can young people develop the personal connection to our history that will enable them to assume the role of the thoughtful and discerning citizens our nation needs.
Q: In your current role as Wells Fargo’s general counsel, how do you advocate for topics like democracy and civic engagement?
The work of all lawyers is ultimately rooted in adherence to Constitutional principles. Lawyers pledge to uphold the Constitution when they are sworn in, and they thereafter strive to provide advice and services in accordance with the highest standards of judgment, integrity, and ethical leadership.
In my nearly year and a half at Wells Fargo, I’ve been privileged to lead a world-class legal team of dedicated professionals, and together we are strong advocates for not only excellence on the part of the company, but also team member engagement, diversity and inclusion, and mentoring. It is my hope that the passion and respect that is shared across the company about the basic principles of our Constitution and our democracy will inspire our legal team as they work to support Wells Fargo, our customers and clients, and our Vision, Values & Goals.