What a summer. Between attacks on gay people, black men, police, French Bastille Day revelers, and peaceful protesters in Kabul—not to mention the hostile American political environment—I feel like yelling “The sky is falling!” Instead, I’m going to urge “Step up, legal academy!”
As announced last January, the AALS theme this year and the Annual Meeting is “Why Law Matters.” In our current, increasingly complex world, law matters more than ever. We have an urgent responsibility, because what our world needs is exactly what we have the ability to give. One of our core strengths as legal educators is to comprehend complexity and hold competing ideals in a delicate balance. We understand—and educate our students to understand—that the world needs order and freedom, stability and change, security and privacy, efficiency and equity. Right now, many forces seem to be polarizing and drawing hard lines that prevent dialogue and action. Those of us trained in law are well suited to help people talk and act across fear and difference to make progress that will benefit all of us.
The promise of equal justice for all must remain our polestar. No one thrives in the long term unless every one thrives. Now more than ever, we are in this together. We must look at the world from the bottom up and ask whose voice is not being heard. Violence and lawlessness can often fall harder on some than others, but no one is immune. When the truck drove through the Bastille Day crowds in Nice, the driver was not discriminating between rich or poor, young or old, men or women, black or white, citizen or refugee. And make no mistake about it—the many forms of violence at work during this and other summers are connected at the root. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Let us lead with what we do and know best: law. While far from perfect, I believe it is still our most promising pathway to a just and humane world.
The AALS Annual Meeting will be rich with programs engaging these themes from our Sections and other participants. We look forward to seeing you there. President-elect Paul Marcus and I have joined together to invite AALS members to spend two years focusing on the role of the legal academy as issues of diversity and equity continue to be highly visible on our campuses and in our communities. We will begin with a presidential program at the Annual Meeting with presenters drawn from the Call for Papers on page 18.
In addition to responding to this particular invitation, I hope that as you begin your academic year, you and your institutions will consider ways to rise to the challenges of our time and demonstrate how law truly matters for the welfare of our world. Please let me know if I can be of help as you begin this work. I will be traveling widely to visit schools this year and would be pleased to visit yours. All of us at AALS are here to help our member schools in their unique and admirable missions to best serve our complex world. Your work is critically important. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do.