By Kimberly L. Stevens
We are entering my favorite time of year, when we celebrate the birth of our nation and patriotism can be seen everywhere. The stories of the Founding Fathers, and history of our brave ancestors, are truly fascinating to me. I have had the privilege of living near and visiting many of the sites where the freedoms that we currently enjoy were fought for by our ancestors. I cannot even imagine having to make the choices and sacrifices that they did, but I am so grateful that they were strong enough to do so.
The United States of America provides so much for all of us that live here – from natural wonders to enjoy and natural resources to use, to opportunities for our families to pursue their goals, interests and dreams. Its system of laws protects our individual rights and as American citizens, we should defend the Constitution and laws in order to preserve those rights. As attorneys, we have a unique duty defend these same rights for others, even if we do not agree with the ways in which they may choose to exercise their rights.
John Adams was a great example of defending people that were extremely unpopular in the community. Prior to the colonies declaring their independence, the people of Boston found themselves occupied by British troops. Bostonians did not feel that they needed the presence of soldiers in their city, and tensions ran high. In March 1770, tempers flared and five Bostonians were killed in what is now known as the “Boston Massacre”. Several British soldiers were put on trial for murder and John Adams chose to defend the accused soldiers, to show that the courts in Massachusetts could dispense justice even to men hated by the general community.
John Adams is just one example, but our country has always needed men and women that have the kind of dedication shown by the early citizens of our nation. Unfortunately, very few Americans know much about the important documents that were drafted by the Founding Fathers so that the entire world would know the ideals for which this country stands. The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights (also called the Charters of Freedom) are the documents upon which the laws that we uphold are based. www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/. Yet have we really informed ourselves of their words and meaning?
For those of us that have read these documents, have we made sure that others in our communities are similarly informed? America will only remain strong if its citizens are informed of the principles and ideals upon which this country was founded, of our nation’s history and how our government works. As citizens of the United States of America, we have a responsibility to the communities in which we live and work. As an attorney, I help my clients navigate through our complicated legal system and in turn, hopefully this provides the people that I represent with a little more knowledge of how our legal system works. We live within a system that is constantly changing – sometimes the legal system seems “broken”, and there are ways it might be made better.
But in order to improve the law and the legal system, and our communities in general, all of us should first have an understanding of the laws, their background and why they were enacted. We should inform ourselves of our nation’s history and leaders so that we can pass this information on to others.
I realize that this endeavor sounds a bit idealistic. In our everyday lives, we sometimes get into a routine and perform our jobs without much thought, and providing for ourselves and our families can easily overtake us. However, I would simply suggest that each of us take a few moments, especially at this time of year as we celebrate our independence, to read the Charters of Freedom and reflect upon what they mean to us as individuals, as members of our communities and as citizens of this great country. Let us work on incorporating these Charters’ principles and ideals into our everyday lives, so that this country and its principles may remain strong.http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/