It is always encouraging to observe young people taking an interest in the legal system and engaging with democracy in a meaningful way. At the BBA, we see this in the sessions of our Law Day in the Schools program, which follow the official observance of Law Day on May 1st every year. This is a time to reflect upon the critical importance of law and the justice system in the United States and educate our young people about how law affects society.
For the second year in a row, we were privileged to attend the Law Day celebration at the Brighton division of the Boston Municipal Court. First Justice Donnelly and Judge Bernstein invited us to participate in an awards ceremony for Brighton public school students, who had participated in an essay and poster contest centered on this year’s theme, “Why Every Vote Matters.” Besides First Justice Donnelly, Judge Bernstein of the Boston Municipal Court, other court staff, and attorneys, Senator William Brownsberger and members of the local police were also in attendance.
We were very impressed by the quality of work exhibited and the insightful comments from the students’ essays that were highlighted in the day’s program book. Here are just a few snippets from middle school students that we found particularly striking:
“At 18, we are given a Constitutional right that involves us in something much bigger than ourselves. The right to vote makes us responsible to society as a whole.”
“Voting is sharing your voice and speaking your mind.”
“The right to vote is more serious than people think. It is the opportunity to choose who you want to lead your country and protect you and your rights.”
“Everyone has a voice, some are big and some are small. They all sound different, but in the end they all matter…Every vote matters because every opinion has value, and every opinion should be respected and counted.”
“Voting is a serious topic. It is a right, but also a responsibility. It is the ears and eyes of a democracy, listening to the citizens who call out.”
It was clear that the students, even at this young age, had considered the theme seriously and were drawing from their own diverse experiences to take ownership of the topic and give it a special meaning. This thoughtfulness was on display at the event, where students eagerly answered First Justice Donnelly’s questions about the American justice system.
Moreover, the diversity and rich backgrounds represented in the student body were a fitting reflection of the theme of American democracy. The patriotism these children showed – from the ideas captured in the winning essays and posters to the fourth grade class, dressed in red, white, and blue, singing a heartwarming rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” – reminded us of what the true spirit of American democracy is: the importance of recognizing the inclusive ‘melting pot’ that is our country. All of the children were given a chance to express what the law, democracy, and voting rights meant to them and were applauded for their efforts.
This supportive atmosphere emphasized that, above all, Law Day underscores the ‘community’ aspect of the ‘legal community.’ We were proud to be a part of this celebration of American democracy and the ideas of our city’s youth, and encourage them to be active and engaged citizens of the Commonwealth.