President's Column

President’s Column: Law Day Is Worth Celebrating

Clarence Webster

Article by Clarence Webster 2021 - 2022 CABA President


No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow — Proverb.

While I appreciate the Proverb for its symbolic message of optimism, its literal meaning puts a smile on my face, too. Spring is a hopeful season, during which we watch the natural world revive and reinvigorate. Dormant plants begin to grown, new seedlings spout, and hibernating animals wake. The days get longer, warmer, and, well, you know what happens.

Spring is also a time of holidays and celebrations. Some are well-known: Easter, Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Arbor Day. Others are not. For example, this Spring the United States will recognize:

  • April 20: National Lima Bean Respect Day
  • April 21: National Chocolate-Covered Cashews Day (which is not to be confused with National Cashew Day, which is November 23)
  • May 9: National Lost-Sock Memorial Day
  • May 13: National Crouton Day
  • June 10: National Ballpoint Pen Day
  • June 14: National Pop Goes the Weasel Day

Lost-Sock Memorial Day should be a national day of mourning. The scourge of lost socks impacts us all.

Another overlooked day of celebration is Law Day. In pertinent part, 36 U.S.C. § 113 states:

Law Day, U.S.A., is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States– (1) in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and (2) for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.

Law Day sprang from the efforts of Hicks Epton, who served as Oklahoma Bar Association president in 1953. In 1951, he created Know Your Liberties–Know Your Courts Week. This was one of the last weeks of April dedicated to educating the public about the legal system and celebrating the liberties we have as Americans. The Know Your Liberties–Know Your Courts Week spread across the country and earned the Oklahoma Bar Association two Freedom Foundation awards. Charles S. Rhyne — President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s legal counsel and American Bar Association president from 1957–1958 — proposed Law Day to President Eisenhower, which Eisenhower first proclaimed on May 1, 1958.

Each year, for Law Day, the ABA designates a theme to highlight an important issue relating to the law or legal system. The theme for Law Day 2022 is “Toward a More Perfect Union, the Constitution in Times of Change.”

Before the Constitution’s formal ratification by a ninth state on June 21, 1788, a campaign to amend the document was underway. Attacking the Constitution for its vagueness and lack of specific protection against tyranny, a group known as the “Anti-Federalists” demanded a more concise, unequivocal Constitution, one that laid out for all to see the rights of the people and limitations of the power of government. On September 25, 1789, Congress adopted 12 of the amendments and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, were ratified and became part of the Constitution on December 10, 1791. Since then, only 17 other amendments have been ratified.

The Constitution is not perfect. The framers knew that. But, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, it is what it is. (What he actually said is, “I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such, because I think a central government is necessary for us… I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution.”). And what it is, is impressive. Over the last almost 235 years, the Constitution has endured as the Nation bloodily tore itself apart over the issue of slavery, reunited, and stretched from coast-to-coast. It has survived existential crisis after existential crisis. It has been the foundation for the peaceful transition of power every four (or eight) years, since 1797. It has outlasted pandemics.

That imperfect document, with its 27 changes, will illuminate the Nation’s path as we — with all of our competing interests, inherent differences, and imperfections — continue each day towards a more perfect union. On Sunday, May 1, 2022, I am going to take a few moments to meditate hopefully on that — preferably outside, on a beautiful spring day — if nothing else.