By Presidential Proclamation, the first of May each year is set aside to encourage Americans to recognize and appreciate the importance of the rule of law in America. On May 2nd this year, the U.S. District Court and the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the Federal Bar Association sponsored the second annual Law Day Yosemite commemoration at the Yosemite Valley School with a focus on the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act of 1864. The 2014 Law Day Yosemite commemoration hosted an essay contest open to local 8th grade students at El Portal, Groveland, Lee Vining, Mariposa, Lake Don Pedro, Wasuma, Wawona, Woodland, and Yosemite Elementary Schools and Oak Creek Intermediate School. Approximately 250 eighth grade students from these Yosemite area schools gathered at the foot of majestic Yosemite Falls to celebrate the Rule of Law and its contributions to the rights and freedoms of all Americans.
This year’s commemoration emphasized the role of the rule of law in preserving and protecting our national parks. President Abraham Lincoln, Conservationist John Muir, Yosemite’s First Guardian Galen Clark and President Teddy Roosevelt made an appearance to discuss with students their respective roles in creating and protecting Yosemite National Park. Yosemite’s Law Day commemoration coincides with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Land Grant Act of 1864. President Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the Civil War, had the vision to sign an act which established Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as the first public lands to be protected and preserved for the citizens of the United States for all time. Students were invited to submit essays describing the significance of the Grant Act of 1864; why legislation was necessary to protect places like Yosemite Valley; what Yosemite might have become without such protections; whether and why national parks are important to America; and, how we might inspire future generations to support the idea born of the Yosemite Grant Act. Winners of the essay contest were announced and awards presented at the event.
Law Day Yosemite 2014 is a collaborative effort of the United States District Court in Yosemite, the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, the National Park Service and DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite. The event is funded by the United States District Court for Eastern District of California and the Federal Bar Association Foundation. The public is invited and encouraged to attend and show support for the concept and for rural school students who may not have the opportunity to attend city events.