The right to vote is the very foundation of government by the people. For this reason, striving to establish and protect every citizen’s right to vote has been a central theme of American legal and civic history. As we approach the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, this year’s Law Day theme, “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters,” calls on each of us to reflect on the importance of a citizen’s right to vote and recognize the challenges we still face in ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to participate in our democracy.
Law Day, officially recognized on May 1st, is described in the federal law as “a special day of celebration by the people of the United States in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law.”
As Americans, we have the sacred opportunity to actively participate in the decisions being made for our country, to reaffirm our personal commitment to the ideals of equality and justice, each year, by casting our ballot to determine our elected officials. This year’s local Law Day celebration, held on April 29 by the Blue Ridge Bar Association in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Canton, provided a forum for a discussion of the importance of our right to vote in our democracy, and an opportunity to address the remaining obstacles facing some members of our society.
Attorney General Sam Olens opened the discussion, beginning a conversation on the significance of American democracy, and the rights and responsibilities of each voter. Elected in January 2011, Attorney General Olens is committed to serving Georgians by defending the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions and upholding the rule of law, and his passion for democracy was evident in his speech.
In addition to the opportunity to hear the Attorney General opine, those present also witnessed the presentation of the Law Day awards. First, the Liberty Bell Award was presented. This award serves to recognize community service outside of regular employment that has strengthened the ideals of American democracy, and is considered one of the most prestigious awards given by lawyers to a non-lawyer. This year, the Liberty Bell Committee selected Pat Tanner as the 2014 recipient.
Ms. Tanner, who devoted her career to social services, helped countless men, women and children between foster care, and adult and child protective services, and later went on to become a Canton City Councilmember, was honored as a woman of tireless work ethic, high standards of professionalism, and devotion to her community.
The Liberty Bell Committee also chose to present a second award in 2014, the Robert S. “Bob” Stubbs Distinguished Service Award. This award recognizes outstanding dedication by a non-lawyer to a profession within the judicial or legal system. Regrettably, this year our community lost a wonderful man, whose assistance with law and order in the juvenile courtrooms will be sorely missed, and the decision to present the Stubbs award posthumously was unanimous. The 2014 Stubbs Award was presented to the family of John Martin in recognition of his distinguished service to our court system.
In addition to the events of April 29, the Blue Ridge Bar Association’s members celebrated Law Day by participating in a community service project at Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch in Waleska, mock trials presented by local children and presided over by Judges Jordan, Morris and Wood, and the presentation of “My Cousin Vinny” at the historic Canton Theatre. The Law Day Committee also has been fundraising for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, to address childhood hunger during the summer months.
These celebrations, remembrances and accolades serve to remind us that we are blessed and fortunate to live in a country where every vote does truly matter. With each passing year, we should take time not only to reflect on the benefits we receive by being part of this great nation, but also to rededicate ourselves to our duty to share the tenets of our democracy with others around the world.
Mandy Moyer practices law with Dyer & Rusbridge, P.C. in Canton. She focuses on estate planning and probate law, and enjoys helping families plan for life events, whether expected or unexpected. She is a native of Cherokee County, and a graduate of Kennesaw State University and the University of Georgia School of Law.