The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Yosemite Division, and the Federal Bar Association, San Joaquin Valley Chapter, along with other sponsors, recently sponsored a Law Day Commemoration in Yosemite.
Hundreds of eighth graders in several neighboring school districts, including Mariposa County, participate in this event each year. Prior to the commemoration, local students are encouraged to participate in an essay contest. This year’s essay contest theme was “Does the Rule of Law Keep Us Free?”
Due to Covid-19, this year the 9th Annual Yosemite Law Day was held via Zoom. The essay contest winners were announced during the ceremony.
What follows is the essay of the first place winner, Annie Bryant, who is an eighth grader at Mariposa Elementary School.
I’m proud to say that she is also my daughter.
By Annie Bryant
It’s the summer of 1787, hot and humid, and air conditioning won’t be invented for another 115 years. Yet, there’s a handful of men crowded into a sweltering room debating the future of our nation. They had only gathered to rewrite the Articles of Confederation, America’s first plan for government, but the Articles were not sufficient for the United States. We needed something stronger, a document that would withstand the test of time, and all the trials and tribulations that America faced. Together they built the Constitution, one of the most important documents in the history of the world. In that room, the Rule of Law for the United States was carefully crafted, preparing America for success.
The Rule of Law is an important piece in the puzzle keeping our country together. Without it, there would be chaos. We need laws not only to protect us from other citizens but to keep us free from oppressive governments and tyrannical rulers. America was founded on the idea of freedom and equality, and the reason we’re still functioning today is because of the laws we created to fit those ideals.
During the Age of Enlightenment, Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher, explained that people are naturally evil and selfish, so they need a strong government to control them. But the laws the government creates are not just there to keep people in check. Laws are fundamental in a working society. They protect the rights of the people, keeping us free.
Some may say that laws are there to repress us, and we need more freedom to be successful, but I disagree. Laws are there to keep us free, not to take away our freedom. It’s true that if the Rule of Law didn’t exist we’d have nothing to hold us back, but is that really a good thing? Would it be nice if thieves and murderers had nothing to hold them accountable for their actions? Freedom is very important, but you have to realize that order is important too.
When a government official is elected to a position of power, it is crucial that they swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Why? Well, as you know, the Constitution is the United States’ plan for government. It was the first of its kind, and many other countries followed our example after we created it. This just shows how powerful it is. Even the Constitution itself mentions that it is the supreme law of the land in Article VI. If the leader of our country decided to betray the Constitution, they’d be betraying the ideals of our nation. It’s everyone’s job to uphold the plans outlined in the Constitution. People don’t seem to realize how fragile our government is. At any time, the people could decide to just stop following the laws that we have created. And, guess what would happen then? Chaos. It’s so important that our leaders swear to abide by the objectives of the Constitution because the Constitution is the glue that holds our country together. We need our officials to protect and defend it because otherwise, our government could collapse.
You may be wondering how swearing an oath connects to the Rule of Law and freedom, but they have more in common than you might think. After all, the Constitution was written to secure our freedom and lay out a plan for the government, so swearing to protect and defend it is the same as swearing to protect and defend the foundation of the Rule of Law for our country.
In the end, the Rule of Law is holding our nation together. America was founded because our ancestors thought the rule of England was unfair and tyrannical. They wanted safety and freedom, the very things that the Rule of Law protects. By upholding the laws of our country as well as supporting and defending the Constitution, the citizens of the United States are protecting the ideas that our nation was built on.
Anita Starchman Bryant, who earned her J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law, is a Mariposa attorney practicing in the areas of real estate, land use, estate planning & administration, and probate law, and is also a very proud mother of two.