By Meredith S. Auten, President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
As a lifelong Philadelphian, the Fourth of July is always one of my favorite days: festivals, fireworks, and family gatherings fill our streets as we celebrate the birth of our nation. Philadelphia, of course, holds a special place in our national history and our celebrations of the Fourth of July. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress met in the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, and voted in favor of independence. Two days later, delegates from the thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence.
As a lawyer and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, I take even greater pride and appreciation of the contributions made by lawyers in the founding of our nation. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 25 were lawyers, and four of the five authors were lawyers (of the Committee of Five, only Benjamin Franklin was not a lawyer, but of course he contributed in so many ways to Philadelphia.)
The delegates from the thirteen colonies came to Philadelphia from different backgrounds, bringing different viewpoints, and disagreement on how to address their grievances with England. After considerable deliberation, they came to agreement to pledge their lives, fortunes, and honor, for the betterment of the country. I would like to believe that the wisdom, creativity, and sense of purpose of lawyers, along with their legal training and practice, helped negotiate these challenging times.
Our cause for celebration must also be tempered by our own resolution to ensure that all people have access to the inalienable rights heralded in the Declaration. In 2023 as we face ongoing challenges to equal access to justice, I hope that law- yers can, once again, be at the center of debates, find consensus and common ground among diverse opinions, and help us all move forward in the quest of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Programs sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, such as the “Justice Matters” conversation series, celebrate the spirit that inspired the dialogue in Independence Hall. Please join us in our mission to carry forward the fight for justice for all.
Happy birthday to America!