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The lost civil liberties leaflet resurfaces

May 22, 2011 The lost civil liberties leaflet resurfaces

As I blogged three years ago:

When then-attorney general Dick Thornburgh had been invited as my law school’s commencement speaker, I was none too pleased. To me, Thornburgh’s Justice Department continued where the Ed Meese Justice Department left off, with rampant disrespect for immigrants’ rights, a First Amendment-trampling anti-obscenity campaign, advocating drug-testing of its employees, and, of course, continued assault on women’s right to choose abortion. Sadly, regime change did not result in a Clinton Administration that championed civil liberties nearly as much as I hoped it would (and the notion of a drug-testing-free society has become a quaint one for now), although Clinton certainly was pro-choice, and his administration withdrew from obscenity prosecutions in favor of child pornography prosecutions.  

My close law school friend Lou Manuta and I identified and weighed our options: boycott the graduation; tape protest messages to our graduation caps; or proceed with the graduation but leaflet the attendees. We arrived at the third option after concluding that a small-scale boycott would not be a message to anybody, and that there’s not much of a persuasive message to put on a graduation cap. Consequently, we put together a simple leaflet saying: "George Washington Law School welcomes Dick Thornburgh as keynote speaker…. But," and continuing on the inner pages to detail our above-listed concerns. With some fellow graduates joining our cause — which probably had more of a positive impact than the two of us just boycotting the lackluster graduation ceremony — we called ourselves Law Students for Justice, suggested in the leaflet that people contact Mr. Thornburgh directly with their concerns (we sent a letter and the leaflet to Mr. Thornburgh in advance), and recruited a few people to hand out the leaflets as attendees filed in. More on Thornburgh’s lackluster speech and my two meetings with Thornburgh (who emailed me that he believes in disagreeing agreeably, when I emailed him this blog entry about him) and other opponents is here.

Long ago, I lost track of that leaflet, which we assembled long before Al Gore invented the Internet. Then, lo and behold, yesterday my leafletting co-conspirator Lou Manuta, sua sponte, emailed me the leaflet. He says he saved a copy and just found it a few days ago. Here is the leaflet.

The leaflet may not have changed public opinion overnight. Nevertheless, I saw people taking note of the leaflet. One attendee exclaimed that the cover of the leaflet did not hint at what was inside. Another fanned himself with the leaflet. A law student commented on it soon after graduation. Accumulated feathers sink the boat.

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