The theme of your presidency is “Defending Democracy.” How did you choose this theme, and what does it mean to you?
On the professional side: I believe law schools have a critical role to play in the future of our country and our democracy. Lawyers are everywhere in places of prominence, power, and policy. Since nearly the beginning of this country, lawyers have shaped our democracy and will continue to do so. As educators of lawyers, we are the shapers of the shapers, and we have a distinct responsibility to this country to ensure that our democracy endures.
On the personal side: As I mentioned, I grew up in a family deeply involved in government and politics. My parents taught me—as their parents taught them—the importance of service to our communities, local, state and national. To the extent that we, as legal educators, are training the next generation of lawyers, it is paramount to train lawyers who are committed to our country. As a constitutional law professor, I perhaps too often quote the preamble. But what I find so meaningful about that statement is that it is aspirational. As we know, it says “more perfect Union,” but not “perfect.” To me, this says we must always strive to do better. It says that the work of democracy is never done. As lawyers, as legal educators—we must play a role in this great experiment. Our country is imperfect in many ways, yet it is striving—it is hopeful. And that is the kind of person I am. If I can find a way to help ours be a “more perfect Union,” I feel pretty good about what I am doing.
This goes directly to the theme of “Defending Democracy.” We have an obligation and a unique role to play in strengthening and preserving our democracy in a challenging and transformational time. I have asked my colleagues to look at curricula, scholarship, and culture within their law schools. In that sense, what I hope to see this year is that we all engage in self-reflection. And each professor and each school think about and act on at least one way to enhance their curricula, scholarship, and/or culture. To recommit to forming a “more perfect Union.” I am not trying to change every school in some dramatic way, but I believe if every faculty member and every school does one thing to make a positive change, that will make a difference.