President's Message

Law Day reminds us that we must continue to fight inequality in all its forms


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Photo of Laurel Bellows by Marc Hauser.

In every town and every city across the United States, Americans pursue the dream of freedom and equality—despite unrelenting obstacles.

In small towns like Shelbyville, Tenn., immigrants from Somalia struggle to find a home in the traditional South. In cities like Washington, D.C., domestic workers are forced to work 12-14 hours a day—cooking, cleaning and caring for children—with no compensation. In workplaces across America, women working side by side with men earn 77 cents to every dollar that men earn.

The grim reality is that despite years of efforts to eliminate inequalities, bias persists against people of color, against women, against individuals with disabilities and against the LGBT community.

On Law Day 2013, the American Bar Association is leading lawyers across the country to rededicate ourselves to one of the fundamental tenets of our profession—justice and equality for all—with the theme “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.” Since the first Law Day celebration in 1957, the ABA has brought our nation together each May 1 to recognize the legal system’s vital role in our society.

More than 150 years after President Abraham Lincoln set forth the promise of freedom for all in the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called for equality for all, and about 50 years after the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act, equality and justice elude us despite our best intentions.

Law Day is a day when we recognize the privilege of living in a country of freedom. But Law Day is also a day of action. Across this country, lawyers will call on our communities, opinion leaders and our fellow citizens to work toward a common promise of justice and equality.

State and local bars will play a critical role in these efforts. As members, look for opportunities for your state and local bars to hold events, invite speakers, form community partnerships and engage the entire community on these critical issues. Ask your bar associations to host a town hall meeting or public debate on equality in your community and allow members of the community to ask questions of legal professionals. Suggest holding a Law Day public awareness campaign about equality and discrimination in your community.

In schools, students can be encouraged to talk about examples of justice, social responsibility and equality to encourage personal connections between these historic ideas and current events. Take it upon yourself to draft a provocative question related to equality and ask college students to respond. Encourage deans of local colleges and universities to organize discussions about equality issues.

As lawyers, we take the lead. We must fight inequality in all its forms. We must speak out for fairness while acting as the guardians of justice. The time is now to break the silence and speak loudly about the abuses that persist in our country.

We must rectify injustice, eliminate all forms of discrimination, and put an end to human trafficking and other violations of our basic human rights. As the Rev. King pointed out in his letter from the Birmingham jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I hope that each of you will take part in your local Law Day activities (visit lawday.org) as we join together to achieve the aspirations so eloquently expressed by President Lincoln and the Rev. King. Please share stories from your cities and towns across the country of lawyers standing up for the American promise of justice and equality. Get involved in the ABA’s other great work by visiting the ABA human trafficking webpage at ambar.org/trafficking, the National Pro Bono Opportunities online guide and the Grassroots Action Center website.

Let us unite in our commitment to assure that all citizens of our great country have the opportunity to “realize the dream” of liberty and equality.

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