President's Message: Constitution Day is a reminder of our civil rights and civic responsibilities

Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 By MBA President Christopher A. Kenney
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MBA President Christopher A. Kenney

Sept. 17, 1787 stands as one of the most consequential days in our country’s storied history, made so by the formal signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia, Pa.

This past Monday, on Constitution Day 2018, Americans once again celebrated the anniversary of this momentous occasion by organizing programs designed to highlight the importance of civil rights and civic responsibility. 

For all of us in the legal profession, Constitution Day offers a welcome reminder of the freedoms and liberties we are sworn to uphold. As lawyers, we have a foundational obligation to make certain that our clients benefit from the full scope of constitutional protections afforded under Amendments 5 through 8, which pertain to the rights of criminal defendants. We are also called upon to defend against unwarranted threats to individual civil liberties, most notably freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

I hope that you will treat Constitution Day not only as cause for inward reflection, but also as a call to action to support similar efforts going forward. To that end, I invite each and every one of to join us as we work throughout this year to promote civic education, empowerment and engagement in Massachusetts.

Just this past summer, our lawmakers passed critical legislation that will expand civics instruction in public schools by 2020. To ensure that our state succeeds in preparing students to become informed citizens, we have agreed to form a curriculum partnership with iCivics, an educational nonprofit founded by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. 

Through our combined training efforts, we believe that Massachusetts students will come to fully understand and appreciate their inalienable right to vote, as well as the American structure of government and the Constitution’s fundamental concepts. 

We also plan to follow the example of countless lawyers who made the honorable decision to participate in this week’s slate of Constitution Day ceremonies. Rather than limiting ourselves solely to a curriculum advisory role, we will proactively seek out opportunities for our members to speak with school and community groups about the virtues of democracy and U.S. citizenship. 

Given their historical significance, federal observances such as Constitution Day, Law Day and Independence Day are among the most appropriate forums for discussion on key civics issues. 

This week is also a fitting time to mention our planned involvement in two worthwhile charitable endeavors targeting Boston’s homeless population: Thanksgiving dinner at the Pine Street Inn and Christmas in the City at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. When you consider our high earning potential as attorneys, it is vitally important that we share our good fortune with those who lack such basic living essentials as stable housing and income. 

Public service has long been a hallmark of the MBA and the legal profession at large, and we are excited to spend the next 12 months reaffirming our support for community-based causes.

In addition to providing us with many of our guiding principles, the U.S. Constitution illustrates the power of collaboration to drive meaningful change. 

I encourage all of you to look to the Constitution’s framers, many of whom were lawyers by trade, and help us bring civics to life in Massachusetts this year. 

I can think of few undertakings that better align with our education, training, oath and mission.