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Law Day 2014: Why Every Vote Matters

By Braxton Gillam, president of The Jacksonville Bar Association

On Feb. 3, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation establishing Law Day.

In his proclamation he noted, “Whereas it is fitting that the people of this Nation should vigilantly guard the great heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under the law which our forefathers bequeathed to us; and Whereas it is our moral and civic obligation as free men and as Americans, to preserve and strengthen that great heritage . … I urge the people of the United States to observe (Law Day) with the appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

In furtherance of these principals, on April 7, 1961, Congress passed a joint resolution designating May 1 of each year as Law Day. The resolution stated in principal, “Law Day, U.S.A., is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States —

“(1) In appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under the law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and

“(2) For the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.”

In recognition of these principals, it is particularly appropriate that on the eve of the 50-year anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that this year’s Law Day theme is: “Why Every Vote Counts.”

President Lyndon Johnson said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever designed by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men. … There is no duty that weighs more heavily upon us than to ensure that right.”

The right to vote is the foundation of government by the people, one of this country’s most cherished ideals. We are very fortunate to have Florida State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente joining us Thursday as our guest speaker at The Jacksonville Bar Association’s 2014 Law Day luncheon. In addition to her responsibilities on the Supreme Court, Justice Pariente serves a co-chair of the Florida Informed Voters Project.

The Informed Voters Project is a nonpartisan voter education project designed to increase knowledge about the judicial branch, explain why politics and special interest attacks have no place in the courts, and provide tools to exercise an informed vote. This project has an overarching, simple message: Voters can ensure that they have fair judges and equal justice in their state courts through their exercise of an informed vote.

As we harken to the words of President Eisenhower, and celebrate this year Law Day, please join us on this Thursday at the Omni Hotel for our luncheon and to learn about the Informed Voters Project from Justice Pariente.

Please arrive early so that you will be able to socialize with friends, and to ensure that we can start the program promptly at noon. I look forward to seeing you then.

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