September 16, 2021

Constitution Day Offers Opportunity to Examine Equity for All

Russ Feingold President

Russ Feingold
ACS President Russ Feingold

September 17th is designated, by act of Congress, as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, a day on which we as a nation “commemorate the formation and signing on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution and recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

The Constitution is an incredible and enduring document, but it was not drafted for everyone and has contributed to systemic inequity since its founding. ACS is committed to reckoning with what we call the Constitution’s “founding failures.” This includes through our support for a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Commission in the United States. This country needs legal transformation if we are to achieve a legal system that improves the lives of all people. Constitution Day is another opportunity to tell the truth about our laws and legal systems when it comes to race and equality in this country.

For instance, we are hosting a program today about the Constitution’s “founding failures” when it comes to Indian Country’s Sovereignty and Subordination. We cannot fully understand the Constitution without better understanding the provisions that directly address tribal sovereignty and the harm the U.S. government has committed against tribal nations and their people. Nor can we fully understand and appreciate citizenship without acknowledging the fact that Native Americans were deprived of full birthright citizenship until the Indian Citizenship Act was signed into law in 1924, and full voting rights until the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

Indian law has been kept at the margins of the American legal narrative despite important questions that implicate our entire system. Our program delves into these questions. If you miss the program today, I strongly encourage you to catch the video of it, which will be available on our website soon. You can also access videos from our previous “Founding Failures” programs online, including “Reckoning with Our Constitution’s Generational Impacts on Health and Well-Being,” and “The Consequences of the Constitution’s Original Sin for Our Criminal Legal System.” We have to reckon with the past and with our Constitution if we want a more just future.

I also want to thank all our members who signed up and participated in ACS’s Constitution in the Classroom. This initiative gives lawyers and law students the opportunity to teach lessons on various constitutional topics to elementary, middle, and high school students. Our curriculum this year focused on the timely topic of the 14th Amendment and Brown v. Board of Education. This ACS Initiative is an excellent opportunity for our network to share our expertise and passion for the law with young people, who just might be future ACS members!