As a profession, we are defending the rule of law—not as a bastion of privilege—but as a revolutionary ideal—as fundamental as democracy itself—as timeless as the principle of justice—as current as the latest Supreme Court decision. That’s why the legal profession has provided one of the great new weapons in the War against Poverty—justice—legal justice—social justice—moral justice—for all.
Sargent Shriver said these words years ago. But today, there are millions of Americans who seek justice but have no lawyer to help them. We have an administration in Washington that seeks to stop funding legal services for the poor, the disabled, and the unfortunate Americans who have been left out of our society. If Sarge were still with us, he would lead us in the fight for justice once again.
I was lucky to know and to become Sarge’s friend in the 1950s. He later persuaded me to join the Kennedy administration, to move our family to Washington, and to participate in the great adventure as a new generation took leadership in our beloved country. His own example in the Peace Corps, as an Ambassador, and in leading the poverty programs demonstrated his unique talents and dedication to public service. I was among those who tried to help him seek elective office, and later, when he returned to private life, we maintained our friendship until his death.
How I wish he were with us today. His enthusiasm, his idealism, and his character would stimulate us to do more for our country. How I would love to tell him that my law partner, John Levi, and our daughter, Martha, are serving the great cause of providing legal services for those Americans who need help. And how we would thank him for reminding us of the words in the Jewish Torah: “Justice, Justice shall Thou pursue!”
Newt Minow is the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a fierce advocate for the common good.