Our Quote of the Week celebrates those who dedicate themselves to the fight for greater justice, whom Sargent Shriver refers to as "the best guardians of liberty". His statement reminds us that we cannot fulfill our promise as a nation until we protect everyone's rights to live life freely and on their own terms.
This quote comes from an address Sargent Shriver made to his fellow alumni of the Yale Law School Association in the year 2000. In the speech, Shriver discusses the importance of public service for the legal profession, citing his own advocacy of the poor and disenfranchised. He mentions that among their peers from Yale are “two men who became Justices of the United States Supreme Court; one [who] became President of the United States, five [who] became U.S. Government Officials; two United States Senators; twenty Heads of Law Firms, and many others [who] became superb, imaginative leaders in other projects.” His examples demonstrate the far-reaching influence that the law and attorneys have in our country.
Sargent Shriver's belief that safeguarding justice for all was so profound and essential, that he included a Legal Services program among the programs of the War on Poverty. In the speech, he recalls:
"After we started the Legal Services Program, several things happened that began to change my thinking about government, about public service, and even about the legal profession. First of all, it amazed me how quickly things happened in our 'Legal Services'. To help us, came lawyers, young, inexperienced, idealistic, but bright, bright, bright young lawyers in their 20s and 30s eager to take on huge established bureaucracies. In the very first year, eight of their initiatives were challenged by experienced lawyers. Those challenges went to the U.S. Supreme Court; and our lawyers won them all!!!"
The triumph of justice over bureaucracy and inequality are indeed inspiring, and those who work in the legal system have a key role to play in achieving it. Of course, fighting for justice is not only the responsibility of those in the legal profession. We must all take the management of our justice system seriously so as to ensure liberty and equal treatment under the law for all. Every person and every issue that passes through our justice system, whether on our streets, at a local police station, or before the Supreme Court of the United States, deserves to be treated with fairness, objectivity, transparency, and integrity. We can, and indeed, we must, all be guardians of liberty if we are to create an equitable and more peaceful society.