PROGRAMS & ACTIVITIES
Inspiring Youth Voters
According to the US Census Bureau in 2005, for the 2004 election, young-voter turnout was greater than at any other point in the 35 years that 18-year-olds have had the right to vote. This information is hopeful as we enter the 2008 presidential election, and witness more young people engaged in the presidential campaigns and election process.
Potential youth voters (18-31 years of age) will be pushing 50 million in the 2008 election, which makes up nearly a quarter of the electorate (according to a CIRCLE tabulation of U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2006 Current Population Survey). This is an important audience, and organizations around the nation are making efforts to engage youth in democracy and encourage them be active civic participants.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), along with Young Voters Strategies, penned a report outlining the best ways to reach and turn out young voters, from phone banks to door knocks. The booklet, Young Voter Mobilization Tactics, evaluates strategies through a randomized field experiment to determine how much each tactic increases a person’s likelihood to vote and for its cost effectiveness. The report can be downloaded at www.civicyouth.org.
In addition, CIRCLE has been tabulating the participation of young voters during the primary season. According to CIRCLE estimates, more than 3 million eligible citizens under the age of 30 participated in the Super Tuesday contests on February 5.
“Young Americans have been turning out to vote at remarkable rates in these primaries. This reflects their deep concern about the critical issues at stake and the impact of this election on our country’s future,” said CIRCLE director, Peter Levine. “Since 2000, young people have been volunteering at high rates and are becoming more interested in news and public affairs. Now they are ready to consider voting as a way of addressing major problems. The Millennials are beginning to make their distinctive and lasting mark on American politics."
Another organization that is focused on encouraging civic engagement among young people is the Mikva Challenge. The Mikva Challenge was founded to assist teachers throughout Chicago in their efforts to engage students in hands-on civics lessons. The nonpartisan organization was launched in honor of former White House counsel, congressman, and appellate judge Abner Mikva and his wife, Zoe, a lifelong activist. The organization is built on the premise that young people learn democracy best by practicing it, as reflected in the unofficial staff motto of "democracy is a verb."
The Mikva Challenge attempts to make government real for students by connecting them to elected officials in the community and in classroom settings. Through the program, Elections in Action, over 1,000 students from 20 high schools engage in authentic hands-on campaign internships during federal, state, and local elections, selecting to work for the candidate of their choice. This program greatly impacts students’ outlook on the political system, as well as enhances their understanding of campaign work and electoral politics.
In addition, the popular Rock the Vote campaign has been around since 1990. Rock the Vote engages youth in the political process by incorporating the entertainment community and youth culture into its activities. From actors to musicians, comedians to athletes, Rock the Vote harnesses cutting-edge trends and pop culture to make political participation cool.
According to a poll released on February 25, 2008 by Rock the Vote, young voters are energized and engaged in the 2008 elections like never before and closely attuned to pocketbook issues—the economy, health care, and college affordability—as well as the war in Iraq. The poll shows a strong and positive attitude toward this election cycle: an overwhelming majority (89 percent) believe they have the power to change our country and 75 percent believe young people are making more of a difference than usual this election season. When asked which candidate they would send to the White House if the presidential election were held today, young voters favored Hillary Clinton (47 percent) over John McCain (35 percent), and Barack Obama (57 percent) over John McCain (27 percent).
"Rock the Vote's efforts to engage young people have paid off and we will continue to build their political power in 2008," said Heather Smith, executive director, Rock the Vote. "For politicians it means the days when the youth vote could be ignored are long gone. Engaging young voters and talking to them about the issues they care about such as jobs and the economy and the war in Iraq is imperative for candidates to win this election in November."
Law Day Celebrates 50 Years in DC
Fifty years ago President Eisenhower proclaimed the first Law Day a “day of national dedication to the principle of government under law.” In honor of the 50th anniversary, the ABA celebrated Law Day in our nation’s capital with this year’s theme, The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity.
While schools, community groups, and bar associations celebrated Law Day throughout the country, on or around May 1, 2008, the ABA celebrated Law Day in Washington, D.C. April 29-April 30, 2008.
Law Day activities included the Law Day Luncheon Seminar for Close Up Teachers at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Dialogue on the Rule of Law at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and the 2008 Leon Jaworski Public Program: National Town Hall Meeting on the Rule of Law at the Newseum.
Nearly 100 civics and government middle and high school teachers attended the Close Up Foundation luncheon to discuss Law Day and issues relevant to the rule of law. The 2008 Law Day chair, Bill Allen, and ABA president-elect, Tommy Wells, attended the luncheon and introduced the guest speaker, Judge Roger Gregory.
Judge Gregory is a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He was initially appointed on a temporary basis on December 27, 2000, by President Clinton via the presidential power of recess appointment. Gregory was renominated by President George W. Bush on May 9, 2001, and soon thereafter became the first appellate judge confirmed during Bush's presidency.
Wells and Allen also facilitated the Dialogue on the Rule of Law, along with Carolyn Lamm, president-elect nominee, American Bar Association and Okianer Christian Dark, associate dean for Academic Affairs and professor of law, Howard University School of Law, at the Duke Ellington School of Arts on Wednesday, April 30. With nearly 30 students participating before a live audience, the conversation focused on the rule of law, its meaning and application in literature and movies.
The Dialogue on the Rule of Law, as well as video downloads from the last two years' Law Day Dialogue events are available at the ABA Dialogue program Web site.
William Neukom, president, American Bar Association, presided over the 2008 Leon Jaworski Public Program: National Town Hall Meeting on the Rule of Law at the Newseum, the Interactive Museum of News on Wednesday, April 30. The discussion on the rule of law was moderated by NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams and included panelists Randy E. Barnett, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory, Georgetown University Law Center; Diana Huffman, Baltimore Sun Distinguished Lecturer, The Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland; Allan C. Hutchinson, distinguished research professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University; Daniel Kaufmann, Director, Global Programs and Governance, World Bank Institute; Philippa Strum, director, United States Studies, Woodrow Wilson Center; Stephen Teret, Director, Center for Law and the Public’s Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and G. Edward White, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law.
The panelists discussed the rule of law and how it affects all facets of our society, including business, labor, education, public health, religion, media, and public safety.
Nearly 200 attendees invited from the World Justice Project and other organizations witnessed this unique panel discussion.
“I thought the panel was outstanding. The conversation was thought provoking and quite informative, with the tensions and relationships identified between "rule of law" and "human rights" as well as the correlation of having an established rule of law and economic prosperity … There was true pleasure in the caliber of intellectual conversation and the high degree of civility among the group.” – Susan Griffin, Executive Director, National Council for the Social Studies
The Leon Jaworski Public Program Series honors 1971 ABA president, Leon Jaworski and is devoted to an examination of how lawyers are, and have been, represented in American culture. The premise and orientation of the series is that because of the seminal role that law and lawyers play in American culture, exploring fundamental legal identities and attributes will help elucidate who we are as Americans.
Click here for the Law Day photos.
Mark Your Calendars for Constitution Day 2008
Debate it. Discuss it. Understand it. Constitution Day, September 17, 2008. The ABA Conversations on the Constitution series will focus this year on how the Constitution shaped the election process in the United States. Visit www.abaconstitution.org in August for lesson downloads, interactive resources, posters and other materials to celebrate Constitution Day in and out of the classroom.
Lone Star Stories: Texans on Justice YouTube Video Winners
In the Fall of 2007, the State Bar of Texas announced a unique contest in which participants created a video on the theme “Texans capturing the promise of justice for all.” The contest is a highlight of the State Bar’s “Let’s Do Justice for Texas” public education initiative, which aims to help the public better understand the importance and value of the justice system and the impact it has on our lives everyday.
Videos of three minutes or less were posted on YouTube, and the contest was open to residents of Texas and attorneys licensed to practice in Texas. The contest entries were judged by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, ESPN and Court TV legal analyst Roger Cossack, former Apprentice contestant Amanda Hill, Texas Music Office director Casey Monahan, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s press secretary, Rich Parsons.
The 2007 winners included Natalie Jordan of Dallas for her video Texans on Justice, brothers Raphael and Alexandre Chaumette of Sugar Land for their video The Promise of Justice for All, and Huey Fischer of Rockport for The Murder of Ima Bacon: A Tale of Justice in Texas.
In addition to prizes of $2,500, the winners were presented awards at a celebratory event in January in conjunction with the State Bar’s quarterly board of directors meeting.
“With this first-ever bar association YouTube contest, we hoped to encourage communication and dialogue with a whole new audience about the importance of the rule of law. I think we have accomplished that,” State Bar of Texas President Gib Walton said. “We are delighted!”
For more information on the State Bar of Texas public education initiative, visit www.texasbar.com.
Judge Higginbotham Tribute During Black History Month
Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) hosted a tribute honoring the late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., during Black History Month on Monday, February 4, 2008 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Following a statement honoring Judge Higginbotham on the Senate floor by Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Specter, the symposium, The Legacy of A. Leon Higginbotham convened at the Dirksen building.
“Senator Casey could not have chosen a finer person to honor in celebration of Black History Month,” stated Sondra Myers, Senior Fellow for International, Civic and Cultural Projects, University of Scranton. “Judge Higginbotham had a sterling character. He acknowledged that many closed doors were opened for him in the course of his life—but he did not talk about the way in which he kept those doors open for others. With all his remarkable achievements and virtues, that commitment to those who came after him is perhaps his greatest legacy.”
Moderated by Christopher A. Lewis, Blank Rome, LLP, symposium panelists included Barbara Arnwine, prominent leader in the civil rights community and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law; Morey Myers, former general counsel to Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey and classmate of Judge Higginbotham at Yale Law School; Eleanor Holmes Norton, delegate to U.S. House of Representatives representing D.C. and former first law clerk to Judge Higginbotham when he was on the Federal District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania; and Charles Ogletree, the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard, and founder and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.
Panelists described Higginbotham as an “iconic figure in law” and a man who made “an incredible difference.” Higginbotham “fought the good fight” and believed foremost in the constitution and the rule of law.
Ogletree noted that Higginbotham’s last speech was on protecting the Constitution. “He never forgot that we are a nation of laws.”
Rising out of poverty and in the face of racial discrimination, Higginbotham graduated Yale Law School in 1952. His distinguished career included being the youngest and first African American commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, becoming the first African American judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Harvard law professor, and a member of the Yale Board of Trustees.
In addition, Higginbotham was also a prominent African American civil rights advocate and author of the book, In the Matter of Color and Shade of Freedom.
Higginbotham was honored and recognized throughout his life. In 1995, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1996, the NAACP awarded him its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law named its annual A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award after Judge Higginbotham, and Higginbotham was awarded honorary degrees from 62 different universities. Higginbotham died at age 70 in 1998.
Teacher and Students at Evergreen High School in Washington Take Their Civic Participation to the Next Level
The Center for Civic Education recently shared a story with the law-related education community about a dedicated teacher, whose efforts to enhance civics education at her school led to some amazing results.
Patti McMaster is a social studies teacher at Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Washington, who uses supplemental material from civic education programs around the country in her curriculum. As her AP/ Youth and Government Class prepared last year for their participation in "We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution" program administered by the Center for Civic Education, the students hit a roadblock when asked to compare the U.S. Constitution to their state constitution.
The students informed their teacher that they had never received instruction in state government, the state constitution, or learned about the importance of participation in state and local affairs. This dismayed not only Ms. McMaster, but also the students.
As a group, the students decided to work on increasing instruction on state government and civic affairs as a public policy project. First they wrote the broad outlines of a bill that would require the teaching of state government, economics, and politics. Next, the students met with their State Representative Deb Wallace, who agreed to introduce the student's bill when the Washington legislature convened in January 2008. Next the students had to convince the state education leadership establishment to go along with their proposal and not block it.
In January 2008, Patti McMaster's students met with the state social studies specialist at the Department of Public Instruction, who gave departmental approval to what the students were doing. Next, they met with State Senator Craig Pridemore to persuade him to be the Senate sponsor of the bill.
The students started a lobbying campaign to get their bill passed. They contacted students across Washington and got them to lobby for the bill. They sent letters, faxes, and e-mails to all members of the relevant legislative committees and all legislative leadership. The students from Evergreen High were invited to testify on behalf of the bill before the House and Senate Education Committees.
The results of these inspiring students was astounding. Not only was the bill, HB 2781, passed by both the Washington State House and Senate, but Patti McMaster's students were the guests of honor when Governor Gregories signed their bill into law on March 27, 2008.
The Center for Civic Education, Campaign to Promote Civic Education is a fifty-state campaign (including District of Columbia) aimed at restoring the civic mission of our nation’s schools by encouraging states and school districts to devote sustained and systematic attention to civic education from kindergarten through twelfth grade. For more information on the "We the People: Project Citizen" program, please visit www.civiced.org or contact Michael Fischer at email@example.com.
What We Owe Our Young People—From the Desk of Lee Hamilton, Director, The Center on Congress at Indiana University
Courtesy of the Center on Congress at Indiana University
You cannot step into an American community today without finding a lively conversation about educating our children. How to boost math and science learning, whether our schoolchildren are reading and writing enough, what constitutes a "quality" education—all of this figures in the national schooling debate and its thousands of local echoes.
Yet with all respect, I believe this debate is missing a fundamental piece: a recognition that a well-rounded education includes the civic virtues. We owe our young people not just a solid grounding in math, science, English and a foreign language, but also an education in democratic citizenship, because in all too many places they're not getting it. Too many youth lack a basic understanding of our representative democracy, and we reap the sour fruit of this in many Americans' disengagement and lost opportunities to contribute to our society.
What would a decent civic education look like? It begins, I think, with a robust account of the American story: the full, unvarnished history of our successes and failures, our ideals and the human flaws that jeopardize them, our progress over the centuries and the detours we've taken along the way. That is the best way to learn how crucial the involvement of ordinary citizens has been in setting the course of our history. It is also the best way to gain an appreciation for how deeply experimental our system remains, with basic questions about the use and allocation of power that were present at the beginning still in play.
Indeed, understanding that we continue to evolve as a nation, I'm convinced, is the strongest spur not just to participating in local and national civic life, but to appreciating the skills democracy imposes on us: consensus-building, compromise, civility, and rational discourse. The only way to learn them intimately, of course, is through experience: the hard but rewarding work of face-to-face engagement with political leaders and our fellow citizens. But learning how crucial they are to making our system work, both in the trenches and at every level of government—that is something our schools can teach.
So, too, we need to teach that citizenship carries with it certain responsibilities: staying informed, volunteering, speaking out, asking questions, writing letters, signing petitions, joining organizations, finding common ground on contentious issues, working in ways small and large to improve our neighborhoods and communities and to enrich the quality of life for all citizens.
Civic education can help young people feel a part of something larger than themselves by connecting them to the splendid traditions of American democratic involvement, and by showing them how to make the most of their talents to leave their communities better places than they found them.
Withholding civic education, on the other hand, means denying the people who will build our future the means to help them do so. The 21st century is bringing with it some very tough challenges: terrorism; nuclear proliferation; declining energy resources; global warming; a rapidly changing economy; competition from China, India, and nations still emerging as global players; immigration; new diseases; fundamental questions of governance. Our young people cannot hope to be successful in confronting those challenges if they have no idea how to get along together in an open and democratic society.
In the end, then, a good civic education has to include not just history and the skills demanded by democracy, but the qualities that undergird collaboration and engagement:
- mutual respect, so that results of lasting consequence can be achieved;
- tolerance, so that our citizens know how to navigate a diverse world and to value differences rather than fear them;
- deliberation and consultation, so that open debate can lead us to consensus rather than conflict;
- empathy, so that we can understand the worries and motivations of others;
- civility, so that we can disagree and still find common ground;
- humility, so that we keep in mind that we might be wrong and are open to learning from others;
- honesty, so that our common deliberations are open and straightforward;
- and resolve, so that we can overcome setbacks and surmount challenges.
These are not matters for classroom education alone, of course. For the most important quality a democracy must possess is the ability to transmit its needs and values through the experience of participating in it. Our families, our communities, our political system as a whole—all serve as teachers.
We adults have been given the great opportunity of political freedom, and we have a heavy obligation to pass on the knowledge of where it came from and how to sustain it. But teaching our civic virtues has to start somewhere, and I would argue that a key place is in our schools.
35TH NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON JUVENILE JUSTICE
More than 800 juvenile justice professionals from around the country gathered in St. Louis, Mo., March 9-12, 2008, for the 35th National Conference on Juvenile Justice. St. Louis’ Cervantes Convention Center at America’s Center was the headquarters for the annual conference, co-sponsored by the Reno, Nevada-based National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), headquartered in Alexandria, Va.
After a welcome that included messages from NCJFCJ President Judge Susan B. Carbon, NDAA President James P. Fox, Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith and Justice Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. of the Supreme Court of Missouri, Judge Jimmie Edwards of the St. Louis Family Court, and other local dignitaries, Tim Decker, director of Missouri Division of Youth Services, gave an overview of “The Missouri Model,” the state’s innovative approach to juvenile justice which has been widely recognized for its humane rehabilitative approach, cost effectiveness, and positive results. Several local teens also participated in the opening session, including students from the Cleveland N.J. ROTC at Pruitt Military Academy, who served as the color guard, and members of Viva Vox, a St. Louis program that provides art mentoring services to at-risk youth, who provided an energetic dance presentation.
Keynote speaker Victor Rivers began his presentation with a traditional Masai greeting: “How are the children?” This simple question seemed to resonate throughout the conference with the message that when a society’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens—its children—are healthy and happy, the society as a whole is sound. Author of A Private Family Matter, as well as a successful actor, athlete, and community leader, Rivers shared the story of his traumatic childhood overshadowed by domestic violence and the “many angels and advocates” who helped him survive and thrive. Rivers emphasized the importance of juvenile justice professionals “connecting the dots” of domestic violence, child abuse, school violence, and crime, and said that especially for young people living in troubled homes, “the idea that someone will listen and believe in them is everything.”
The conference’s plenary sessions provided participants—including judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, probation officers, detention and corrections workers, police, social workers, and others from around the country—with insights on a number of issues facing professionals working in the nation’s juvenile and family courts. Following are plenary session highlights:
- Dr. Scott Sells of the Savannah Family Institute spoke on “The Out-of-Control Family,” discussing how to help parents develop the necessary tools to reconnect with their troubled children.
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention administrator J. Robert Flores spoke about the agency’s focus in the coming year on issues including Internet exploitation of children, underage drinking, gangs, faith-based efforts, truancy, and disproportionate minority contact.
- Dr. Rita Cameron Wedding of California State University, Sacramento, discussed how unconscious racial bias and stereotyping persists in decision-making in both the dependency and delinquency arenas, emphasizing, “The only way we can treat everybody the same is if we see everybody the same.”
- Dr. Randy Lockwood of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals spoke about the 2007 prosecution of football star Michael Vick and the connection between dog fighting and juvenile delinquency.
More than 75 workshop sessions provided participants with a wealth of information on a variety of issues including exploitation of children, methamphetamine addiction, girls in the juvenile justice system, character education, juvenile accountability, child support, suicide, gangs, the effects of domestic violence on children, juvenile mental health, truancy, school violence, and juvenile sex offenders.
Next year’s 36th National Conference on Juvenile Justice will be held in Orlando, Fla. More details will be available soon at www.ncjfcj.org.
Constitutional Rights Foundation Names Jonathan Estrin, President
Following a nationwide search, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) has named Jonathan Estrin to be its new President. Estrin assumes the position effective immediately.
“The Search Committee was extraordinarily impressed with Jonathan’s depth of experience in philanthropy and education, two key components related to CRF’s mission to educate students on the importance of civic responsibility,” said Joseph Calabrese, the current Chair of CRF’s Board of Directors and partner at the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP.
Estrin had run a consulting practice in education, entertainment and new media opportunities for non-profit organizations. He was formerly Executive Vice-President of the American Film Institute, where he supervised its K-12 Teacher Education program, its renowned Conservatory of Filmmaking as well as film exhibition and new technologies. Prior to that he was the Dean of the College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University, where he developed and implemented a business and marketing plan that resulted in dramatic increases in funds raised and enrollment.
Estrin has been a writer-producer for 30 years, and has created over 100 hours of award winning television series, movies and miniseries for various broadcast and cable networks. His credits include Cagney & Lacey, the Showtime movie Jasper, Texas as well as such series as Family Law and an adaptation of Pat Conroy's novel The Water is Wide for the Hallmark Hall of Fame/CBS. Estrin also Chairs the Board of Operation USA, an LA based international medical relief and development agency that was named by Worth Magazine as one of America’s Top 100 Charities.
“In naming Jonathan to this position, we sought a fresh perspective to help expand CRF’s status as a leader in civic education for America’s youth,” states Alan Friedman, Partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson who co-chaired the Search Committee with Sharon Matsumoto, Assistant District Attorney, Administration, LA County District Attorney’s office. “Jonathan has a proven track record and the necessary experience in reshaping an organization during a time of change.”
Estrin will be joined in senior management by longtime CRF staff member Marshall Croddy who will assume the newly created role of Vice President, heading up the critical areas of programs and publications. "There is no person better suited for this job than Marshall Croddy. " states Calabrese. " Marshall will continue to play a vital role at CRF, bringing his breadth of knowledge of its programs and partners to CRF's ongoing work with young people throughout the country.”
Estrin succeeds Todd Clark who served as Executive Director since 1990. Under Clark’s leadership and throughout his 40 years of service to the organization, CRF has become a leading source of civic education for millions of students and teachers nationwide. Clark will continue to provide consulting advice for the nationally recognized Educating for Democracy: California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.
Constitutional Rights Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan education organization. It seeks to instill in our nation’s youth a deeper understanding of citizenship through values expressed in our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Each year, CRF helps educate over one million young people to become active and responsible participants in our society with a variety of programs including the well-known Mock Trial and History Day programs.
For more information about CRF please refer visit www.crf-usa.org.
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Law Matters, which reports on developments, ideas, programs, and resources in the field of public education about the law, is disseminated three times yearly (fall, winter, spring) by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Public Education.
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