Remarks by Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
ADL Annual Meeting
Los Angeles, November 6, 2014
I always look forward to presenting the Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize, one of our most prestigious honors. This prize was established by Dwayne Andreas as a tribute to his close friend. As you can see in your programs, through the years ADL has had the privilege of bestowing this prize on a remarkable roster of recipients.
Let me start with a few words about Hubert Humphrey. You will likely recall that in his distinguished political career, he served as mayor of Minneapolis, senator from Minnesota, and the 38th Vice President of the United States. What you may not recall is that, as the Democratic whip in the U.S. Senate, it was Humphrey who helped break a filibuster and secure passage of the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964. We are of course marking the 50th anniversary of that landmark achievement this year, and this is an appropriate moment to recognize Humphrey’s leadership in making it happen.
In the course of his career fighting for the poor and the downtrodden and speaking out against injustice and inequality, Humphrey spoke often about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In one of the final speeches of his distinguished career, a commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania, he said: “The message of the United States is not nuclear power…It is the message of human ideals. It is the message of human dignity, it is the message of freedom of ideas, speech, press, the right to assemble, [and] to worship...”
Passionate especially about the First Amendment, he also once famously said that “the road to freedom – here and everywhere on earth – begins in the classroom.” He understood that Americans need to be taught and frequently reminded that we draw strength as a nation from our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and the freedoms they guarantee.
The recipient of this year’s Prize personally embodies the passions Humphrey expressed both for the First Amendment and for education. Indeed, he is widely recognized as one of this nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars and most distinguished legal minds. Not only is he a formidable advocate, he is also a brilliant teacher with a remarkable ability to explain complicated laws and cases in a clear and compelling way.
Erwin Chemerinsky holds the titles of Founding Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, with a joint appointment in Political Science. Previously he taught at Duke Law School, and before that, for 21 years at the University of Southern California School of Law here in Los Angeles.
In January 2014, National Jurist magazine recognized Erwin as the most influential person in legal education in the United States. It was a well-deserved honor, because throughout his career, Erwin has inspired countless Americans – both lawyers and non-lawyers – with his unique ability to make the most complex legal concepts accessible.
Erwin’s areas of expertise are constitutional law, federal practice, civil rights and civil liberties, and appellate litigation. But I think it’s fair to say that we know him best for his skillful advocacy for the rights embodied in the First Amendment, including the Free Speech, Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses. The author of eight books and more than 200 articles in top law reviews, he frequently argues cases before the nation’s highest courts, including the United States Supreme Court. He is also widely followed and respected as a commentator on legal issues for national and local media. Of course, we at ADL especially appreciate and salute his passionate defense of the separation of church and state.
Erwin is also a long-time friend and supporter of ADL. In addition to being preeminent in his field, Erwin is a true mensch - always available when we turn to him for his keen insights and legal expertise. For the past 15 years he has headlined our annual Supreme Court Review with Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence, most recently broadcast from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Erwin Chemerinsky has dedicated his life’s work to safeguarding First Amendment freedoms and educating the public about their significance. Erwin, it is truly a privilege for me to present you with our Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize.