Danny Glover brings activist message to HLS

BY FRANZ CHENG

“Wherever there’s been some law, some change in attitude, lawyers have been at the forefront of that, defining individual liberties, defining people’s rights… and defining people’s right to live in peace,” declared Danny Glover to a captivated audience on September 10 at this academic year’s first Saturday School Event. Glover recounted how lawyers were at the forefront of civil rights, anti-war and women’s rights movements and how they have historically provided services to those in greatest need of protecting. He exhorted law students to serve the community and the country, noting that celebrity lawyers like Thurgood Marshall became famous not because of money, but because of the services they provided to other people.

With Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree as moderator, Glover expressed his concern about the Patriot Act and the escalation of fear after September 11th, adding that “one war leads to another conflict; we started in Afghanistan, as you see, and then Iraq, and there are potential conflicts for us all over the world.”

Glover spoke about how the xenophobic limitation of immigrants’ rights might lead to a slippery slope of increased restriction on all Americans. He also criticized Attorney General John Ashcroft’s exploitation of Americans’ fear, but optimistically noted that Americans “have an opportunity here, now,” to be a part of the discourse regarding terrorism. Glover cited such discourse as the reason why the Patriot Act was amended to be weaker than its original draft.

The California-born-and-raised Glover also discussed other topics, including his opposition to the recall election in California. Glover called Davis’s job performance “horrific” but also declined to endorse Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bid for the California governorship, instead stressing that major California issues such as energy, public financing, education and resource management were decades in the making and that recalling Davis would not solve long-term problems. Glover argued that California’s Proposition 13 started a chain of events two decades ago by draining the state of property taxes that went to public schools. Once-proud California schools, he continued, are now among the nation’s worst in terms of students’ academic performance. “I’m glad to pay taxes,” Glover declared as he explained his belief that taxes provide for “those who are incapable of providing for themselves.”

Fielding questions on the topic, Glover argued that prisons have become dysfunctional and overcrowded because inmates are not afforded the opportunity to work, learn and prepare for life after incarceration. “Give them the right to vote as well,” Glover exclaimed to raucous applause.

Glover reminded attendees that everyone should focus not only on local and national issues, but global issues as well. He specifically stressed the need to think about economic systems and their environmental consequences, noting that the United States represents less than a twentieth of the world’s population but consumes more than a third of its resources.

While Glover is perhaps best known for his role in action movies such as the Lethal Weapon series or Predator 2, he is also an activist and self-professed child of the civil rights movement. He has spoken out against violence in Haiti and has helped monitor elections and work on AIDS relief in South Africa. Glover serves as Chairman of the Board for the TransAfrica Forum, a research, educational and organizing institution that analyzes issues concerning U.S. policy surrounding Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. More recently, Glover has spoken about terrorism and the need for open debate at a time of fear.

Saturday School is a program started in 1988 by Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree. It tries to promote dialogue among students and professors and to provide a way for speakers to discuss controversial issues. The next Saturday School event is in Ames Courtroom, at 6 p.m. on September 24th. It will feature Professor David Cole of Georgetown University Law Center, who will speak about how sacrificing immigrants’ rights in the War on Terrorism undermines American security and liberty.

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