Wednesday, January 6, 2021
I'm sharing a message I sent to our law students tonight -- this is a crucial time to stand up for the rule of law.
The scenes from Washington D.C. today have been distressing, to say the least. The U.S. Capitol building was overrun for the first time since the War of 1812. Crowds have been whipped into a frenzy by leaders spreading disinformation and baseless conspiracy theories in order to disrupt the peaceful transition of power. These tactics are direct assaults on our democracy, and as the leader of a law school dedicated to the “search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice,” I condemn them unequivocally. We are an academic community committed to the free and robust exchange of ideas – from all political perspectives – but we are also committed to championing and defending the rule of law, and we must not hesitate to speak out when it is under attack.
As we navigate this unbelievably tumultuous time in our history, I think about you. I wonder how I would feel to be embarking on my legal career as our country is convulsed by a pandemic, racial injustice, political turmoil, and rampant anxiety about the future. I’d probably feel pretty stressed. I might have a hard time concentrating on my reading. I might be angry about the behavior of some of the lawyers and leaders I’m supposed to look up to.
Words of encouragement may seem hard to come by tonight, but I do know this: as difficult as the road ahead appears, our work has never been more important than it is right now. As our Model Rules of Professional Conduct remind us, “lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society.” Whether I’m talking to seasoned lawyers or undergrads contemplating law school, when I ask what draws them to law, one answer I hear consistently is a desire to do work that matters. As disturbing as today’s events have been, I hope they also serve as a stark reminder: our work matters. As lawyers, we are called to be faithful stewards of a noble tradition. I urge you to remain hopeful, engaged, and confident in our shared vocation.
With warm regard,