Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by
Legal Services Corporation Board Chairman John G. Levi
Pro Bono Awards Reception
January 23, 2014
LBJ Presidential Library
Atrium – 10th Floor, 2313 Red River Street
Thank you. What a terrific warm evening. Coming from Chicago, I am warm tonight – not just because of the warmth of your weather, but because of the special warmth of this occasion.
Thank you so much to all of our participants and a special congratulations to the winners of the pro bono awards.
Your exemplary efforts are inspiring to all of us.
I also want to join all of you in congratulating the Texas Access to Justice Foundation on its 30th anniversary — a tremendous milestone for the leading funder of civil legal aid in Texas.
Under the stellar leadership of your Board, chaired by Richard Tate, and executive director, Betty Torres, you help improve the lives of tens of thousands of low-income Texans every year.
We at LSC, as you well know, are your federal partner in funding civil legal aid, and we, too, are about to mark a milestone later this year, our 40th anniversary.
As you heard from Martha Mino earlier this evening, LSC was established by Congress in 1974 as one of the last acts of the Nixon Administration, and it has weathered political and financial challenges to remain the single largest funder of civil legal aid in America.
It is especially fitting that we acknowledge and celebrate these important anniversaries here in the magnificent LBJ Presidential Library.
After all, the federal government’s quest to provide support for civil legal assistance to low-income Americans took shape before the creation of LSC, 50 years ago during President Johnson’s “war on poverty” and the 1964 creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and a year later, its Legal Services Program.
In announcing this “unconditional war on poverty,” President Johnson cited the plight of those “living on the outskirts of hope,” and called for replacing their despair with opportunity.
Just six months ago, at LSC’s quarterly meeting in Denver, Colorado’s U.S. Attorney John Walsh, sounded a similar theme when describing the work of LSC and its grantees:
“798 years ago … the Magna Carta established that no man, even a king – or in our constitutional system, a President – is or should be above the law. In a sense, the enterprise that all of you are engaged in is achieving the equal but converse principle – that just as no person should be above the law, no person should be below it.”
The shared mission of those of us gathered here tonight—to deliver civil legal aid to low-income Americans who might otherwise fall below the law-- provides hope …and opportunity as well, the opportunity to share in a core American value—equal access to justice.
Thank you so much, and good night.