As we approach our 2014 Law Days events, I feel it’s appropriate to share a bit of history about Law Day. In 1957, American Bar Association (ABA) President Charles S. Rhyne, a Washington, D.C., attorney, envisioned a special day for celebrating our legal system. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day as a day of national dedication to the principles of government under law. In 1961, Congress, by joint resolution, designated May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.
One of our most cherished national ideals, expressed eloquently by Abraham Lincoln, is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” It is a principle enshrined in our nation’s founding documents, from the Declaration of Independence’s assurance that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, to the opening three words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, “We the People.”
The right to vote is the very foundation of government by the people. For this reason, striving to establish and protect every citizen’s right to vote has been a central theme of American legal and civic history. Much of the struggle for voting rights began decades ago, but the work is far from complete, and a citizen’s right to cast a ballot remains at risk today.
With the upcoming 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 2014 Law Day theme, American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters, calls on every American to reflect on the importance of a citizen’s right to vote and the challenges we still face in ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to participate in our democracy.