In September, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel at The New York City Bar Association titled “Securing Democracy For Tomorrow.” Moderated by United States Magistrate Judge Katharine Parker, the event focused on the importance of civic education. To start things off, Dawn Smalls, a partner at Jenner & Block, introduced the keynote speaker, Schools Chancellor David Banks. David is a strong supporter of civic education and its capacity to empower students as change agents that have a genuine, lasting effect in their communities. He shared powerful firsthand examples from his career, in which he witnessed the impact of student activism as a positive force for social change in some of our most underserved neighborhoods.
The panel highlighted the importance of civic education, not only in empowering students at the local level, but also for the health of our democracy as a whole. Civic education teaches the skills of listening, critical thinking, open-mindedness, and constructive criticism in a group setting. It enables students to become well-informed, active citizens who can identify and address challenges in our communities. We need to equip our young people to take charge in upholding our democratic values and ideals and participating in our democratic processes, including the importance of voting.
On the panel, I highlighted Proskauer’s Moot Court program – a 35-year partnership with Francis Lewis High School, hosted by Fordham University School of Law and the Justice Resource Center. Through this program, we help prepare students for careers in law, teaching them how to read cases, present evidence, and make compelling arguments.
The Moot Court program is just one example of Proskauer’s commitment to civic education. Our other efforts include programs to raise awareness among students around current events and topical social and legal issues. These education programs complement the Firm’s long-standing commitment to public service and pro bono work, all of which I shared while on the panel.
My co-panelists were United States Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon, Khin Mai Aung, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic for Generation Citizen and Abdul Hafiz, a Data, Privacy, and Cybersecurity associate in White & Case’s New York office. The program was co-sponsored by the NYCBA Task Force on Civic Education and Task Force on the rule of Law. The City Bar invited a number of wonderful organizations committed to civic education to join the event and provided their representatives opportunities to showcase their work and share upcoming volunteer opportunities. The groups included: NYC Department of Education’s Civics for All program, Do Something, Generation Citizen, The Justice Resource Center, Legal Outreach, the Urban Debate League, and the Second Circuit Justice for All program.