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Welcome to the 2022 AALS Annual Meeting
Freedom, Equality, and the Common Good
As we emerge from the pandemic and begin to address the social, economic, and political turmoil left in its wake, I am glad to have chosen Freedom, Equality, and the Common Good as the theme for my presidential year and for this Annual Meeting. You will find many interesting sessions related to this theme in the days to come, as well as timely programs on other topics and valuable pedagogical programming. I hope that we may use this gathering as an opportunity to consider how our legal system will engage the realities of a post-pandemic world.
COVID-19 public health restrictions have shown us that crafting a common understanding of what freedom means can be very complicated, particularly in the face of a crisis. When we think about our right to be free from government restraint, must we not also strike a balance with our countervailing responsibilities to our fellow citizens? How can a democratic society survive without empathy, mutual respect, and compassion?
One of the bedrocks of modern democracy is the equality of citizens expressed through universal suffrage. Unfortunately, the 2020 presidential election saw some of the most brazen attempts at voter suppression since the Jim Crow era and these efforts continue. That the broad availability of the franchise is still a contested notion in this country is inextricably linked to our history of slavery and white supremacy. Rampant inequality is an enemy of democracy. If we care about the future of our republic, we must act.
I suggest we might turn our attention to the concept of the common good. The two great founding democracies of the modern era, the United States and France, sprang from similar revolutionary ideals, but the French retain one constitutional principle that we do not share: fraternity. As recently as 2018, a defendant actually used this principle to avoid prosecution for assisting undocumented migrants, with the French Constitutional Court noting that it “confers the freedom to help others, for humanitarian purposes, regardless of the legality of their presence on national territory.”
Both freedom and equality are inextricable from a meaningful engagement with the common good. During the course of this meeting, let us consider how we might reimagine the intersection of these three concepts to strengthen democracy and rule of law in the years to come.
Let us also hope that this will be the last Annual Meeting for which we convene virtually. AALS has every intention of returning to in-person events in 2023. The online format of the past two years has allowed more members of the law school community to participate than ever before, and we sincerely hope that many of you will continue to join us next year in San Diego.
I hope many of you will join me in viewing the Awards Ceremony broadcast. This year I have the unique pleasure of presenting the highest honor awarded by AALS, the Triennial Award for Lifetime Service to Legal Education and to the Law, to Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. Particularly in this moment in American history, Professor Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality and race and the law is deserving of recognition and celebration.
I extend my thanks to AALS Sections, the Program Committee, the Arc of Career Committee, and AALS professional staff for their work on every aspect of the meeting. I look forward to engaging with many of you during the next four days of programming. Welcome.
Vincent D. Rougeau
AALS President, Boston College Law School
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