By MARIE-LOUISE H. BERNAL
"Now, therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, May 1, 1958, as Law Day -- USA. I urge the people of the United States to observe the designated day with appropriate ceremonies and activities; and I especially urge the legal profession, the press and the radio, television and motion picture industries to promote and to participate in the observance of that day."
Since that day, every U.S. President has annually issued a Law Day Proclamation, and the activities surrounding the event have not abated, as evidenced by the Planning Guide the American Bar Association (ABA) distributes every spring as well as by the special Law Day Chair the ABA appoints to coordinate and inspire Law Day events nationwide. The theme for the year 2000 celebration was "Speak Up for Democracy and Diversity."
History, of a kind, was made when the Law Library on May 1, 2000, honored and featured as speaker the originator of the idea of Law Day, Charles S. Rhyne. In introducing the speaker, Law Librarian Rubens Medina described Mr. Rhyne, 88, as "a distinguished lawyer in private practice, a prominent litigator and a prolific author who spent most of his career at the center of political power. He counseled several presidents and became a recognized expert in the field of aviation law. As a passionate proponent for human and civil rights, he fought discrimination throughout his career wherever he encountered it."
"As a litigator, Mr. Rhyne successfully argued many cases before the Supreme Court. His desire to increase the public's awareness of the rule of law and to halt the use of force found its ultimate expression in 1958, when President Eisenhower, through Mr. Rhyne's efforts, signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring May 1, 1958, as Law Day USA. These efforts received worldwide attention, when Time magazine devoted its May 8, 1958, cover to Charles Rhyne, then president of the American Bar Association."
The Law Librarian concluded by noting Mr. Rhyne's remarkable "ability to translate his vision into reality, which has not only earned him numerous honorary degrees and positions of leadership, but also two Nobel Prize nominations. However, his crowning moment came in 1963, when 2,500 legal representatives from all over the world came together in Athens to discuss how to extend the rule of law internationally in the first World Peace Through Law Conference. He served as president for the World Peace Through Law Center from its inception until the organization in 1991 changed name to the World Jurist Association."
Mr. Medina also thanked the Friends of the Law Library of Congress. With the support of the Friends, "the Law Library has been able to develop its own annual tradition to observe Law Day, as a way to celebrate the significance of law and the legal profession here and in other countries of the world, and as a way to reflect the wealth of the Law Library's vast global collection and the expertise and diversity of its research and reference staff." The Friends were represented by Abe Krash, president; former Sen. Charles McC. Mathias, member of the board; as well as by the executive director, Anne Mercer.
"It is an honor to speak to you in the Library building dedicated to Thomas Jefferson," Mr. Rhyne said. "I think Jefferson, with his belief in freedom of thought and individual liberty, as well as his recognition of the importance of a public declaration of these rights, would have approved of the Law Day we celebrate."
"I thought you might be interested in the way Law Day came about, and the way it has changed with the times. Mine will not be a scholarly presentation, but I hope it will offer some insight, and some amusement, about how public pronouncements often come into being."
"The justifications for a Law Day were twofold, one timeless and one very much a product of its times. The timeless notion was the use of law to achieve individual and social justice. The application of that notion to the Cold War, to contrast democracy with communism, was a product of its times, but one which, I think, is relevant to the new democracies which have replaced the communist regimes."
Mr. Rhyne then revealed how he persuaded President Eisenhower to sign the Law Day Proclamation.
"The immediate inspiration for a May 1 celebration of Law was directly related to the Cold War. For many years, the American news media gave front-page headlines and pictures to the Soviet Union's May Day Parade of new war weapons. I was distressed that so much attention was given to war-making rather than peacekeeping."
"My idea was to contrast the United States' reliance on the rule of law with the Soviet Union's rule by force. To that end, I drafted a U.S. Presidential Proclamation, which made its way from John Foster Dulles, secretary of state, to Sherman Adams, chief of staff to President Eisenhower, and stopped there."
"Time passed. May 1 was fast approaching and I had heard nothing, so I went to see Adams. He pulled the Proclamation out of his desk and gave it back to me, saying 'The President will not sign a Proclamation praising lawyers!'"
"I strode down to the Oval Office and handed it to President Eisenhower himself. As he stood there reading it, Adams burst in yelling 'Do not sign that paper praising lawyers!'"
"The President held his hand up for silence until he had read the entire document. Then he said 'Sherm, this Proclamation does not contain one word praising lawyers. It praises our constitutional system of government, our great heritage under the rule of law, and asks our people to stand up and praise what they have created. I like it and I am going to sign it.' And he did. ... It has always seemed to me that Adams thought I was urging not recognition of Law Day but recognition of a Lawyers' Day, sort of like Mother's Day or Father's Day. I am glad that President Eisenhower set him straight."
Mr. Rhyne closed by expressing the hope "that the opportunity which Law Day provides to reflect on the use of law by both nations and individuals will prompt both you in this audience and the leaders of nations to explore ways in which not only the Internet, but also other new technologies, can make more law more readily available to those who need it."
The event was held in the Jefferson Building and attracted an audience of close to 100, including Margaret Bush Wilson, the American Bar Association chair of Law Day 2000, and her colleague Mabel C. McKinney-Browning, director of the ABA Division of Public Education. Also in attendance was Senior Associate Dean Richard A. Danner of the Duke University School of Law, to represent Mr. Rhyne's alma mater. Among other guests in the audience were Margaret Henneberry, president of the World Jurist Association; Kamla K. Hedges, director of Library Relations for the Bureau of National Affairs; Marilou M. Righini, consultant and editor for Transnational Publishers Inc.; Hans Wabnitz, legal counsel at the World Bank; Luz Sadak, Inter-American Development Bank; and Susan Hoban and Joel Sachs from NASA.
Joining staffers from the Law Library and from other parts of the Library of Congress were also many law librarians, such as Linda Corbelli from the Supreme Court Library; Randall J. Snyder from the Executive Office of the President Law Library; and Mary Alice Baish, associate Washington affairs representative, Georgetown University Law Center, representing the American Association of Law Libraries.
Ms. Bernal is special assistant to the Law Librarian.