Today, June 15, 2015, is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta Libertatum or the Great Charter of English Liberties. On that date, King John of England affixed his seal on the Magna Carta and formally accepted the principle of the rule of law, specific and sweeping limitations on his royal power.
In place of my regular Monday Commentary, I am proud to present the speeches given by my students on the occasion of the 800th anniversary celebration of the Magna Carta on my campus, the California State University, San Bernardino.
I have “crowed” from time to time that I have never missed posting a Monday Commentary in years. That would be nine years of uninterrupted weekly commentaries (as some would affectionately call them “sermons’) to date.
Well, that claim ends today, June 15, 2015.
I can think of no better occasion or time to yield the floor to the younger generation and watch them carry the torch and march onward in the defense of the rule of law and the liberties we hold so dear as free human beings and Americas.
This is one of my proudest moments as a university professor. I can imagine no greater honor than seeing my students rise up to uphold the principle of the rule of law, a principle to which I have dedicated my life.
I am a great fan of the Magna Carta. I developed an appreciation for the rule of law at a very tender age. I have told my story in my commentary, “A Magna Carta for Ethiopia”, which, I am proud to say, is posted on the official website of the Magna Carta Committee operating under the Magna Carta Trust.
I am a fan of the Magna Carta for two reasons.
First, The Magna Carta marks the first time in recorded human history in which the ruled told their rulers what to do and not do. That is a revolutionary concept — timeless, ageless and deathless . I wish to see it practiced widely in Africa, particularly in my birth country of Ethiopia.
Second, the Magna Carta means the rule of law, which means right makes might. The weak shall not fear the strong. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “Where there is the rule of law, there is liberty. Where there is liberty, governments fear the people. When governments fear the people, the bell tolls for tyranny.
I believe I am right in claiming that our university is the only institution of higher education in the United States to hold a major student-sponsored celebratory event (we prefer to call it a birthday party) for the Magna Carta. I am prepared to stand corrected if our claim can be disproved.
I am deeply grateful to the students who organized the Magna Carta celebrations on our campus. I give the students full credit for managing, coordinating and organizing the event. They went out and obtained the funding; they arranged the facilities; they managed the advertising; they provided the technical support and they did all the presentations. I just watched them in amazement and awe as they went about doing their thing. I am grateful to them for letting me be part of their event as their adviser.
I am especially grateful to our students for taking on the added responsibility of the Magna Carta event in addition to all of their other responsibilities.
Some of the student participants are taking double the normal college course load. Some of them are taking extremely challenging seminars with an extraordinarily heavy load of reading and writing assignments. (They know that I am completely deaf when it comes to complaints about reading long articles and writing long research papers, legal briefs, critical reviews of court decisions, commentaries and much more.) Some of them are doing both and carrying additional responsibilities by serving as student leaders on campus and working to support themselves. They all went “above and beyond the call of duty” in their preparation for the event. Despite the extraordinary demands and limited time they had to prepare, all of them delivered outstanding presentations.
I am very proud of them!
I am also proud to say that the CSUSB students who presented in the Magna Carta celebrations, and many others like them, will be the guardians and defenders of American liberties for decades to come. They will be the torch bearers and beacons of our constitutional liberties.
But I believe they will be and do much more than that. They will be defenders of human rights and human dignity all over the world.
I have no doubts that they will one day be the strong and unsilenceable voices for the unheard, the ignored, the defenseless and powerless from America to Zimbabwe.
California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) is “highest ranked” among public colleges and universities in the 2015 Best Colleges (West) rankings.
The student presenters in this event and many others like them are the reasons why CSUSB has consistently earned such high rankings.
The student presentations below have been edited for clarity and space; points omitted in the extemporaneous speeches have been included. A brief “bio” of each presenter is provided at the end.
To read the rest of the Commentary, click HERE.