The 2021 Law Day theme “Advancing the Rule of Law Now” brings urgency to the practical application of aspirations embedded in the Constitution.
Law Day, celebrated on May 1 and throughout the month of May, has been a visible part of American legal culture since President Dwight D. Eisenhower established it in 1958 to celebrate the rule of law in a free society. Eisenhower, a former five-star Army general during World War II, saw first-hand what happens when the rule of law breaks down. As the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, he directed multi-lateral military operations on land, sea, and air in Europe.
“The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower
The centrality of the rule of law in successful societies is experienced, if not acknowledged, in American life every day. Examples of daily practices taken for granted but protected by the rule of law include the free exercise of individual rights – expressing opinions that are unpopular, practicing religions that are not widely understood, and participating in public life at school, in court, and in the voting booth.
For the distance learning environment, a rule of law video, discussion-starters and writing prompts (pdf), and a program agenda (pdf) stimulate critical thinking about the real-life ways this abstract but impactful concept is part of daily routines.
The rule of law video presents common examples of how the rule of law puts individuals and powerful entities on equal footing in court. As Eisenhower put it: “[T]he rule of law does more than ensure freedom from high-handed action by rulers. It ensures justice between man and man however humble the one and however powerful the other. A man with five dollars in the bank can call to account the corporation with five billion dollars in assets and the two will be heard as equals before the law.”