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December 15, 2010

President Zack Statement Re: RE: Bill of Rights Day

ABA President Stephen N. Zack

ABA President Stephen N. Zack

More than two hundred years ago today, what Americans call the “Bill of Rights” — the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution — became the law of the land.  Those collective safeguards of American liberty are just as important today as they were the day they were ratified.  They promise protection of essential human rights, forming the core of this country’s free society and justice system.

Every time a person kneels in a place of prayer, she quietly invokes our Bill of Rights.

Every time an accused person is given a fair trial, he is shielded by our Bill of Rights.

Every time a person shares an unpopular political thought, she embraces our Bill of Rights.

The first 10 amendments to our Constitution are an essential and lasting gift to this country. But all too few Americans know and appreciate their legacy. The First Amendment Center found that only 23 percent of those polled knew freedom of religion was guaranteed in the First Amendment.  Only 6 percent knew that same amendment allows America’s citizens to complain to, or seek help from, the government without fear of backlash or punishment.

This serious problem must be fixed. We can’t fight for the rule of law abroad, yet lose it here at home.

To examine this crisis and inform students and policymakers, the _ Commission on Civic Education in the Nation’s Schools is reaching out to the next generation. In conjunction with President’s Day 2011, thousands of lawyers will volunteer to work with tens of thousands of American schoolchildren, connecting them with American history.  This activity and others like it will ensure the next generation’s understanding of this country’s history, including the words we celebrate today.  You can join us in this work by going online here.

Learn More About:  Civil RightsZack, Stephen N.