This year, as many Americans are developing a renewed appreciation for their freedoms, Law Day takes on a new significance.
"It is fitting that the American people should remember with pride and vigilantly guard the great heritage of liberty, justice and quality under law," said President Dwight D. Eisenhower 45 years ago, as he declared May 1, 1958, as the first Law Day. "It is our moral and civil obligation as free men and as Americans to preserve and strengthen that great heritage."
This year, the Oklahoma Bar Association decided to come up with its own theme. Though the American Bar Association is focusing on "Celebrate Your Freedom - Independent Courts Protect Our Liberties," in Oklahoma the theme is "American Heroes, Champions of Liberty."
The state and county bar associations have scheduled a variety of events for May 1 to acknowledge the importance of law.
For the first time in recent memory, the Oklahoma County Bar Association has partnered with the Oklahoma City University School of Law to host a Law Day Luncheon. At the luncheon, the annual Journal Record Award will be presented to an outstanding attorney, and the Liberty Bell Award will be presented to a non-lawyer who has made a significant contribution to the rule of law and/or the legal community.
The keynote speaker will be Louis Henkin, a legal scholar credited with inventing the concept of international human rights. The Columbia Law School professor will speak on "The Rule of Law and Human Rights and Terrorism."
Henkin has served as a consultant to the United Nations, as an adviser to the U.S. State Department during part of every decade since the 1940s, and as a frequent member of the U.S. delegation to international conferences and organizations. The author of several books dealing with international law, Henkin is a former Guggenheim Fellow and has received numerous awards from both domestic and the American Society of International Law.
"We are fortunate indeed to have someone of Louis Henkin's stature and experience in the world in international law and human rights as our keynote speaker for Law Day," said Federal Magistrate Judge Valerie Couch, president of the Oklahoma County Bar Association. "His participation in our jointly sponsored Law Day activities is yet another example of how our county bar association benefits from the active presence of OCU Law School in our legal community."
Lawrence Hellman, Dean of the OCU School of Law, was able to get Henkin to appear at the luncheon after making his acquaintance at a conference, he said.
The university's participation in Law Day serves a dual purpose, Hellman said.
"It provides exposure to the profession and its culture for our students and helps them to get involved," he said. "It also stimulates those in the profession to reflect on the role of law and the responsibility it brings.
"The relationship between Oklahoma City University School of Law and the Oklahoma County Bar Association is close and mutually beneficial," Hellman continued. "We at the law school are always looking for opportunities for our students to interact with lawyers and judges and to experience their deep commitment to core professional values. …