Law Day 2009: A legacy of liberty — Celebrating Lincoln’s bicentennial

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elissa V. Ernst
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Staff Judge Advocate Office
This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of one of the most influential presidents in United States history, Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln, who had a solid foundation in the law as a practicing attorney for many years before being elected president, wisely emphasized the legal process as a means of providing and protecting the rights we enjoy as American citizens.

Law Day, celebrated annually May 1, honors President Lincoln now for the contributions he made to our country many years ago.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower instituted Law Day in 1958 as a national day designated to acknowledge the importance and role of our legal process to the American way of life. It is a day to reflect how we as Americans have achieved the freedoms we enjoy and how the legal system provides the framework for those freedoms.

President Lincoln practiced law for much of his adult life. As a lawyer, he established a solid foundation from which he was able to draw strength and prudence in successfully leading our great country through one of the most tumultuous and trying times in our nation's history, the Civil War. President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, but his legacy of liberty lives on.

Now our country is fighting the overseas contingency operation, formerly referred to as the global war on terror. This Law Day we have an opportunity to remember how important the rule of law is in ensuring the liberties we value so deeply.
I would like to echo Lincoln's powerful words from a speech he gave on a Sept. 11 about 150 years ago, words that are just as relevant now as they were then.

"Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere," said President Lincoln, Sept. 11, 1858 during a speech at Edwardsville, Ill.