Monday Morning Message 1.19.21 A Defining Moment of Challenge and Controversy

Posted 2021-01-19 10:28am

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy." – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort….in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in…What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country…” – Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

“…Dozens of lawsuits received hearings in courtrooms all across our country, but over and over, the courts rejected these claims, including all-star judges whom the President himself has nominated….nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence…  The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken…If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever…. We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate realities. with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share…. “ – Senator Mitch McConnell

…this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.” – President Ronald Reagan, Inaugural Address

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we return to spring semester classes today at a defining moment of “challenge and controversy.”

I write this message this morning with both a heavy and a hopeful heart.

My heart is heavy because while the Congress was undertaking one of the most fundamental tasks required by our Constitution – the peaceful transition of governmental power as prescribed by law- a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Many carried American flags and shouted “USA” under the guise of patriotism, but make no mistake- disregard for truth, bigotry, hate, and violence wrapped in the flag is not patriotism. In this case, it was domestic terrorism.

We must always defend peaceful protest and the right to challenge electoral procedures in the courts, but the actions of the rioters run contrary to what we teach at our law school. It was a direct assault on the heart of our democracy, the rule of law, and our long history of peaceful transitions of Presidential power. As 157 of my fellow law school deans noted, “Lives were lost, the seat of our democracy was desecrated, and our country was shamed.”

All people of good faith – regardless of political affiliation or ideology- should stand firm on our principles of democracy and speak up for them in moments like these. My thanks to CSU President Harlan Sands for his powerful words.

I’m also very hopeful.

I’m hopeful because the actions of the rioters were an abject failure. Patriotic Americans were outraged but were not intimidated. Just hours later, the U.S. Congress assured that we will have a peaceful transition of power tomorrow that, in the words of President Ronald Reagan, is “nothing less than a miracle.”

Our work at CSU Cleveland-Marshall has never been more important than it is right now. Now more than ever, we need lawyer-leaders to defend the rule of law and the rights of all.

As lawyers we are trained to listen and learn, and to withhold judgment until we have had a chance to evaluate what we have heard. We are trained to be zealous advocates, but also to mediate difficult disputes, to apply reason, and search for solutions to problems that seem intractable. As our Model Rules of Professional Conduct remind us, “lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society.” 

If there ever was a time to ensure that an ethos of social justice permeates our law school’s culture, it is now when our country is torn by divisiveness and the pandemics of Covid-19 and racism continue to rage on. While our legal system too often fails to attain social justice, it also remains the most effective and powerful vehicle on earth for pursuing and achieving it.

Thus, a quality legal education is the single best way to ensure that a new generation of leaders will be skilled in advancing and serving social justice and the rule of law.

As we honor the memory of Dr. King, we recognize that his work is not yet finished.

Our work matters. You matter.

Welcome back.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay Committed to Living Justice. Have a Happy, Healthy, and Safe Holiday and New Year.

Have a great day. Have a great week.

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

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My views in all my Monday Morning Messages are my personal views alone and do not reflect the views of our law school or our university.

My best,


Lee Fisher
Dean, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law 
| Cleveland State University
Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler Chair in Law

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