San Diego ACLU Celebrates Constitution Day with 400+ Class Discussions
In its sixth year, the ACLU’s Constitutional Civics Program will reach more than 15,000 students in 48 schools in twelve school districts. Scores of volunteer attorneys and business leaders will present the fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights in a coordinated program to highlight the brilliance, complexity and wisdom of our foundational documents.
Actor and Facebook phenomenon, George Takei, is joining the San Diego ACLU’s successful annual project to educate thousands of middle and high school students about our foundational documents on the federal holiday recognizing the signing of the United States Constitution 225 years ago.
Takei, who is in San Diego appearing in the Old Globe’s production about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II (“Allegiance: A New American Musical“), was himself interned as a youth. He will share his painful personal history with several dozen classes at High Tech High’s International School Monday afternoon. The decision to remove 120,000 people of Japanese descent from their homes and hold them in internment camps is today universally acknowledged as a shameful act in our country’s history—but at the time, few other than the ACLU would challenge it. Takei will speak of the denial of due process as a central civil rights violation that was justified—as we see again today—by those saying that security trumps liberty in times of national crisis.
On Constitution Day, September 17, lawyers from the offices of the U.S. Attorney, the District Attorney, the California Attorney General, the Public Defender, the Federal Defender, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Judge Advocates General, and most of the region’s most prestigious law firms, along with private practitioners and law school professors volunteer their time to give multi-media, interactive, nonpartisan presentations to middle and high schools.
The San Diego ACLU developed its program in response to a 2004 congressional mandate that all schools receiving federal funds provide educational programming on the Constitution on September 17, the date the document was signed in 1787.
The ACLU hopes the program will staunch the trend revealed by numerous surveys that young people have a dismally low level of knowledge about the U.S. government and our fundamental rights and freedoms. Studies also show, however, that, when teachers and parents emphasize the importance of civic participation and discuss current events, twice as many students profess interest in politics.
The presentations feature specially designed study guides on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and major court cases upholding constitutional principles and civil liberties. Attorneys make use of a student-friendly PowerPoint presentation that helps make complicated concepts visual and thus more understandable.
Constitution Day Council and Legal Community Support
A distinguished panel of judges, law firm partners and community leaders advises and supports the ACLU’s Constitution Day activities. The Honorable H. Lee Sarokin (Ret.), U.S. Court of Appeals, 3rd District, chairs the Constitution Day Council, and the Honorable James Stiven (Ret.), U.S. District Court, Southern District of California serves as program chair.
Law firm lead sponsors for Constitution Day 2012 are Cooley LLP, DLA Piper, Fish & Richardson, and Sheppard Mullin. Candace Carroll and Todd Stevens, both past presidents of the San Diego County Bar Association, are also proud sponsors.
List of Participating Legal Organizations
California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
City Attorney of El Cajon
Crowley Law Group
Office of the San Diego District Attorney
Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.
Foley & Lardner
Higgs, Fletcher & Mack
Latham & Watkins
Law Office of Alex Landon
Law Offices of Eric Morton
Law Office of Isaac Blumberg
Law Office of Jennifer L. Coon
Law Office of Rebecca P. Jones
Legal Aid Society of San Diego
MacLeod & Catalano
McKenna Long & Aldridge
Mitchell Gilleon Law Firm
Office of the California Attorney General
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd
San Diego Public Defender
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith
Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Office of the United States Attorney, Southern District of California
U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps