Liberty under law empowering youth, ensuring democracy

  • Published
  • By Capt. Brian Green
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing Judge Advocate
When you enlisted or were commissioned in the Air Force, you swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. What does the Constitution mean to you? When was the last time you talked with your kids about the Constitution? What have you told them about our country and system of government?

As Airmen, it's important for us to serve our country not only by what we do in uniform, but how we explain our service to the next generation.

The Constitution is a foundational document that, for 220 years, has served our country well, in large part because of the framers' respect for liberty under law. They fought our War of Independence to guarantee liberty from England, and had to forge a system of government that would continue to protect that hard-won liberty.

The framers knew from history and human nature that freedom, unrestrained by law, could not sustain itself. Because freedom implies the power to do evil as well as good, the law is needed to protect the weak, punish wrongdoers and ensure that one man's freedom does not result in another man's enslavement.

At the same time, the framers knew the legal system itself should not be unduly burdensome, such that it restricts people's ability to do good, to prosper and to live in peace as they see fit. And because democracy in its purest form leads inevitably to tyranny of the majority, the framers sought to balance the new U.S. government internally, such that no single individual or faction could seize absolute power by a single election.

Our Constitution succeeds by enumerating both the powers and limitations of our executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, as well as by leaving meaningful autonomy to the states. Its amendments improve it further by recognizing the natural rights of the individual in matters such as religion, speech and private property; forbidding slavery; and extending civil rights such as voting to all adult citizens, regardless of sex or color.

Liberty under law, as we enjoy it today, has not come cheaply. Benjamin Franklin, when asked what kind of government he and the other framers were creating in Philadelphia, reputedly said, "A republic, if you can keep it."

To keep our republic has often presented great challenges. Internal division and external aggression have required us to march to war in her defense. Ending the evil of institutionalized racial discrimination took more than a century of toil and sacrifice. The freedoms we may now take for granted are only ours because others have dedicated their lives to achieving them.

How will you promote liberty under law, and help ensure our republic survives long into the future? One way is your dedicated service in the Air Force. Another is continued participation in the political process--educating yourself and others on candidates and issues, and voting for those you think will best improve our country's governance. A third important way is to teach your children about the relationship between liberty and law. Even if you don't have kids of your own, you can speak to them at schools, churches or community organizations to teach the message of liberty under law. They'll be the voters, leaders and Airmen after we're gone. Shouldn't they know how our country works? 

Side Bar
The American Bar Association sponsors Law Day on May 1st each year. This year's theme is, "Liberty Under Law: Empowering Youth, Ensuring Democracy." To observe Law Day 2007, the 319 ARW legal office is sponsoring an essay contest open to all base personnel in the grades of E1 to E5 and O1 to O3 (or civilian equivalents), as well as spouses of those grades and all minor dependents.

To enter, write an essay between 250 and 1,000 words on the topic of "Liberty Under Law." Email it to Capt Green at, or drop it off at the legal office front desk, 460 Steen Blvd Ste 201, with your name, contact information, and unit (if applicable).

The deadline for submissions is 9 a.m. May 14. All entrants will receive a certificate of recognition. Legal Office staff will select the best essays from among the adult and child entries once all submissions are received. The winners in the adult and child categories will receive an AAFES gift card and have their essays posted at the 319 ARW Legal Office website. Winners and prizes will be announced by COB Wednesday, May 16. If you have any questions, call Capt. Green at 747-3606.