Friday, April 29, 2011
President Dwight D. Eisenhower celebrated our nation’s commitment to the rule of law in his inaugural 1958 proclamation designating May 1 as Law Day, calling on Americans to “vigilantly guard the great heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under law which our forefathers bequeathed to us.”
Sixteen years later, near the end of the Nixon Administration, Congress passed the Legal Services Corporation Act declaring that “there is a need to provide equal access to the system of justice in our Nation” and “to provide high quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford adequate legal counsel.”
Today, LSC is the nation’s single largest funder of civil legal assistance, and is at the center of access to justice efforts across our country. Through extraordinary public-private partnerships, LSC-funded programs help the elderly, victims of domestic violence, veterans, disabled individuals and others confronting serious civil legal matters.
Much work remains to be done if our nation is to fulfill its promise of equal justice for all Americans. Local legal aid offices are swamped with requests for assistance. State and local courts—especially housing and family courts—are overwhelmed with low-income unrepresented individuals. LSC-funded programs need increased federal and state funding in order to keep our national promise.
As we observe Law Day, we must heed President Eisenhower’s call to never lose sight of our primary responsibility—to uphold our nation’s core values. Our generation has its own responsibility to the next generation to renew and strengthen those values given to it by preceding generations. We can never take our founding values of “liberty, justice and equality under law” for granted.