In his April 29 Law Day proclamation, President Obama encouraged all Americans to celebrate and reflect upon the example of President John Adams, whose “legacy of dedication to fairness and the rights of the accused has been carried forward by members of the legal profession for more than two centuries.”
The annual Law Day, first proclaimed in 1958 by President Eisenhower after being envisioned by then ABA President Charles S. Rhyne, celebrates the rule of law. The celebration, officially set for May 1, has grown to encompass weeks of events conducted by schools, bar associations, courts and other organizations throughout the country. The association’s Division for Public Education provides extensive resources and materials to help teachers and bar leaders create and promote Law Day activities.
This year’s theme, “The Legacy of John Adams: From Boston to Guantanamo,” recognizes Adams’ role in defending a British officer and several soldiers charged with firing into a crowd of protestors and killing five civilians in the 1770 Boston Massacre.
ABA President Stephen N. Zack pointed out in his Law Day message that Adams’ acceptance of the case, in the face of mass public outcry, showed the world that America is “a government of laws, not of men.” This year’s theme, Zack said, “fosters understanding of the historical and contemporary role of lawyers in defending the principle of due process and the rights of the accused.”
Zack and National Law Day Chair Kim J. Askew participated in the annual Leon Jaworski Public Program held April 25 in Washington, D.C. The program, established in 2001, featured a panel discussion on the Law Day theme.