Speech at the National Center on Poverty Law Dinner

"So, we all must speak out for equal justice for all: Justice which we and the national government have created for all!"
Los Angeles, California • May 01, 2003

Thank you, Mickey, and you also, Secretary Christopher, and most important of all, President Clinton, for his presence here this evening.

I accept this Award for all those who believe in “Equal Justice For All Americans” –including especially every Legal Services Lawyer throughout our country, - - from Brooklyn A in New York, to Public Counsel in Los Angeles, and to the thousands in every city and state in our nation!

I accept this Award also for all those in the1960s who worked to create a National Legal Services Program for the Poor! – especially Edgar and Jean Cahn, Clint Bamberger, Earl Johnson, Bill McCalpin, Donald Dell, and many, many others.

I accept this Award also for the first bright, young Legal Services lawyers who won all of their cases before the U.S. Supreme Court!!!

And I accept the Award also with sensitivity and thanks to Lewis Powell and Chesterfield Smith, Past Presidents, and for Dennis Archer, President-elect, of the American Bar Association.

And of course, I accept the Award with memorable respect for Mickey Kantor who would not accept the closing down of “Legal Services for The Poor” by the President of the United States in the early 1970s. Mickey energized us all to work until Congress created the “Legal Services Corporation.” Thus, Congress rejected that negative action by the President of the U.S.!!!

These actions by so many brilliant and diverse citizens have shown that we, as one country, have decided that we, ourselves, are able to create equal justice for all!!!

What we saw more than 30 years ago, and what “The National Center On Poverty Law,” under the excellent leadership and direction of Rita McLennon, sees every day, is, that the factors which keep people in poverty are only partly economic. Unlawful and improper discrimination – on the basis of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, age and handicap, -- often plays a major role! So does unequal enforcement of laws meant to protect everyone, along with misguided laws that violate constitutional mandates of equal protection, due process, privacy, and freedom of expression. Through communication, and research, and pioneering advocacy, NCPL enables lawyers who lack the resources of national law firms or the government, to advocate for their clients on an equal playing field!

So, we all must speak out for equal justice for all: Justice which we and the national government have created for all!

The lawyers and judges may energetically and competently lead us, but tomorrow morning, I believe, we must begin also to mobilize the entire medical profession to join the lawyers in gaining legal justice for every American. We also must mobilize the education profession, the financial profession, the communications profession, the housing profession, the technology leaders, and for sure, the movie and television industry! We need each of these, individual groups, to work for equal justice for all! This may shock some persons, but nevertheless, I want to say again that we need this revolution in the 21st Century. We need you, every one of you, -- everybody, to join, if possible, with energy and participation, in that new revolution!

It is still, today, just 2003! And American leadership for tomorrow must equal and maybe even surpass the words of our original Declaration of Independence, which committed our country to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That commitment must now be extended to the entire world, not just to our country, but to every place and person on earth. We’ve got to become, the actual leader of the world, in legal leadership. We have recently just demonstrated our military might. Now we have to demonstrate our commitment to equal justice for everyone everywhere.

I do not hesitate to say that I believe our country, and each of us, has a chance to create a New World – a world the likes of which has never been in any history book, or never proposed by any nation, in the written or even unwritten history, of the entire world!

We must make sure, to begin with, that every American receives legal access to equal justice!!!!

Everyone in this room has a chance – a real honest-to-God, down-to-earth, day- by-day chance – to transform our country, and the 21St Century, with such access to equal justice! Yes, we face this new and greater responsibility in a harder and more diverse world than we have ever known.

But we must create a transformation, a better and unprecedented New World, a New World created in the21st Century, for God, for all Countries, and for all human beings.

So, please help us God and please listen to God, all persons on earth, male and female, old and young. For God alone represents, and can help, all persons of all races, and of all wealth, everywhere, to create that New World all of need now!!!

Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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