On the eve of the vote in the US House of Representatives, more than 600 communities across the country rallied to call for President Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. The Harvard Law School Democrats were invited to participate in our local rally at Cambridge City Hall. Our 3L President, David Sackstein, shared the following words with those gathered:
Good evening. For those of you whom I haven’t yet met, my name is David Sackstein and I’m here as a representative from the Harvard Law School Democrats.
I am unbelievably grateful to be here tonight. I’ve called this city my home for nearly a decade and I’ve called Middlesex county my home since I was five years old. I’ve always been inspired by our community’s unique brand of patriotism and its desire to support policies and institutions built equally on justice and compassion. We’re here tonight because we believe in the rule of law, and we share a desire to see our national community embrace the ideals that our local community strives to safeguard every day.
As I near graduation, I think about what it will mean to be a lawyer in this county. The blessing conferred on graduating students at our law school is as follows: “You are ready to aid in the shaping and application of those wise restraints that make men free.” Truth be told, the law isn’t always wise, and justice isn’t always blind. But perhaps that’s the burden we’re given. It’s our duty to strive for freedom by shaping and applying the law so as “to loose the chains of injustice” but also to place wise restraints on those seeking to use unfettered power to their own unjust ends.
As a law student who has been privileged to call Massachusetts home, I have always been inspired by the proud legal history of our Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Constitution is the oldest continuously effective written constitution in the world, and it served as a model for our country’s federal constitution, which was ratified about nine years later. The document itself was revolutionary. Its first article, which proclaims that “all men are created free and equal” served as the legal basis for a series of court cases through which courageous men and women successfully sued for their own freedom. Through these court cases, Massachusetts became the first state to abolish slavery fully.
There’s something else about our Commonwealth’s Constitution that’s worth noting. Article 30 outlines our framework for the separations of powers. It reads: “In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them: the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them: the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.”
You may have heard that last line quite a bit in the news lately. It first came to national prominence on October 20, 1973 when President Nixon discharged Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor designated to investigate the Watergate Scandal. Professor Cox responded to the news of his own dismissal with a powerful warning: “Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people.” That same warning holds true today.
No American, and especially no American president should be above the law. The version of our country’s story that we embrace here in Massachusetts is one in which the greatest sin a government can commit is to give unrestrained power to a single individual. That principle has proven time and time again to be worth fighting for and, yes, to be worth dying for. The House of Representatives will meet tomorrow to decide whether to charge President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. If it votes yes, those charges will be at the very heart of a Senate trial to decide whether to remove President Trump from office.
As we’re all aware, the impeachment process will likely be swayed by partisan politics. Therefore, while we pray that it serves as a reminder to all Americans of what is at stake, we cannot and will not rest easily. It is not our community’s tradition to leave the fate of our country in the hands of even our most competent and dedicated public servants. Rather, tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our lives as empowered citizens. We join those across the world who believe in democracy and who believe in laws created for the people, by the people. We will do everything we can not only this year, but in every year to come. We’ll make phone calls, send text messages, and draft emails to voters across the country. We’ll contribute to candidates, causes, and institutions that embody our ideals. We’ll knock on doors in our own community and, for those of us with the privilege to travel, we’ll knock on doors in other communities farther from home. We’ll march, and yes, we’ll rally.
Thank you all for being here tonight. Every single one of you continues to be an inspiration and model of patriotism for younger members of our community like me. We can and will make a difference, now and in the future, and I look forward to many years together in pursuit of justice.