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May 01, 2024

Statement of ABA President Mary Smith RE: Law Day

CHICAGO, May 1, 2024 — In 1958, the Cold War was a stark threat to U.S. national security. May Day military parades in Moscow’s Red Square and throughout the Eastern Bloc, allegedly to celebrate International Workers’ Day, were put on to display military might and stir up discontent in the United States. That same year, ABA President Charles Rhyne worked with President Dwight D, Eisenhower to establish May 1 as Law Day to celebrate the rule of law as America’s founding principle. In doing so, President Eisenhower issued the following statement: “The world no longer has a choice between force and law. If civilization is to survive, it must choose the rule of law.”

“Voices of Democracy” is the theme for Law Day 2024. Today, we are at an inflection point regarding the rule of law. At home and around the globe, autocrats threaten its very existence. American democracy is under strain, and we must all use our voices to maintain our system of laws and ensure that our democracy – as conceived – endures. 

One cause of this crisis lies in the fact that too many of our citizens lack a fundamental understanding of the rule of law and the basic principles of our democratic republic. Without that core grounding in basic civics, democracy can be taken for granted and its essential freedoms can be lost.

Accordingly, we must act immediately to promote a nationwide focus on civics education and reconnect U.S. citizens with our democracy, the rule of law and basic human rights principles. It is critical to take action steps with immediate impact that will lead our citizens to feel ownership of American democracy.

Law Day has never been more important.

The ABA Task Force for American Democracy is working to establish trust in our election systems and promote civics education. Working with Secretaries of State, such as Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger and Michigan’s Jocelyn Benson, the Task Force has been hosting listening tours around the country, furthering our commitment to partner with organizations nationwide to strengthen our democracy.

Today that legacy of the rule of law is at great risk. Each of us must get involved at the state, local and federal level as activists for democracy and the rule of law. We must replace polarization with mutual respect, honoring the other person’s point of view.  There is no place in our society for threats of violence against those who uphold our democracy, particularly election workers and judges. The ABA will be at the forefront, fulfilling our obligation to defend the Constitution and the rule of law.  We must all renew our commitments to participating in free and peaceful elections, hosting civil dialogues and ensuring our nation is a nation of laws – not of men.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on X (formerly Twitter) @ABANews.