“The protection of law – the Rule of Law – is the foundation of our system of government,” Garland said. And he went on to emphasize that no one — no one — is above that law.
The Rule of Law means that the same laws apply to all of us, regardless of whether we are this country’s newest citizens or whether our [families] have been here for generations.
The Rule of Law means that the law treats each of us alike: there is not one rule for friends, another for foes; one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless; a rule for the rich, another for the poor; or different rules, depending upon one’s race or ethnicity or country of origin.
Garland acknowledged that all of that was under threat. “The Rule of Law is not assured,” he said. “It is fragile. It demands constant effort and vigilance.”
And then he invoked our — and his — duty to uphold it, especially at this fraught moment in history.
The responsibility to ensure the Rule of Law is and has been the duty of every generation in our country’s history. It is now your duty as well. And it is one that is especially urgent today at a time of intense polarization in America.
Garland placed “our intense polarization,” in historical context. The country, he explained to a group of new citizens, was “no stranger to what our Founders called the risk of faction. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison wrote about it in the Federalist Papers. George Washington warned against it in his Farewell Address.”
Then he laid out the challenge.
Overcoming the current polarization in our public life is, and will continue to be, a difficult task.
But we cannot overcome it by ignoring it. We must address the fractures in our society with honesty, with humility, and with respect for the Rule of Law.
That meant tolerating peaceful disagreement and “demands that we listen to each other, even when we disagree.”
But, Garland emphasized, it also “it demands that we reject violence and threats of violence that endanger each other and endanger our democracy.”
“We are all in this together,” the attorney general said. “We are all Americans.”
And then, Merrick Garland drew his red line:
On this historic day and in this historic place, let us make a promise that each of us will protect each other and our democracy.
That we will honor and defend our Constitution.
That we will recognize and respect the dignity of our fellow Americans.
That we will uphold the Rule of Law and seek to make real the promise of equal justice under law.
That we will do what is right, even if that means doing what is difficult.
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