Administrative Law Review Symposium Highlights Importance of Democracy

‘We the People?’ Event Features Distinguished Speakers Focused on Preserving American Democratic Ideals

The Administrative Law Review at American University Washington College of Law hosted a thought-provoking symposium on the future of U.S. elections and democracy. The engaging symposium featured panels on topics ranging from the Voting Rights Act and redistricting to presidential powers and the electoral system. Highlighting the symposium were keynote addresses from distinguished speakers including Representative Jamie Raskin and Former Representative Liz Cheney.

Former Representative Liz Cheney and Representative Jamie Raskin.

Throughout the day, panelists spoke about the importance of having an open-and-free democratic system and how important the democratic process is toward societal progress, ensuring the protection of individual freedoms, human rights, and the rule of law. By safeguarding democratic principles, societies can mitigate the risk of authoritarianism, tyranny, and systemic oppression, while fostering environments conducive to economic prosperity, innovation, and the overall well-being of citizens.

Former AUWCL professor and current Maryland 8th District Representative Jamie Raskin gave an impassioned speech about why democracy is worth defending.

"It is only in the democratic societies where we’ve got the chance of defending people’s freedom," he said.

Raskin emphasized that in democratic systems, power rests with the people, who have the right to choose their representatives and participate in decision-making processes, creating a culture of accountability among leaders, as they are answerable to the electorate and must act in the public's best interest.

Dean Roger A. Fairfax Jr. and Representative Jamie Raskin.

Throughout the day, a recurring theme was the current political climate in the aftermath of January 6. Panelists, students, and speakers all spoke about why everyone in the U.S. must work to maintain our democratic systems and not let the country backslide into authoritarian ideals.

Raskin referenced authoritarian, autocratic regimes across the globe as cautionary tales about why all Americans need to do their part to defend the ideals the country was founded on.

"Democracy is the structural presentation necessary for freedom. Necessary, but not sufficient," he said. "We can have the structure in place, but if you get the wrong people in office … then it’s not enough. The formal procedures of democracy are necessary for freedom."

Former Representative Liz Cheney listens intently to one of several questions from the audience, this one from a student.

In her keynote address, Cheney talked about the importance of standing up to challenge those who wish to harm American democracy.

"That silence helps the people that are putting the republic most at risk," she said. "As uncomfortable as it might be, we have to speak out. We have to make sure that we are clearly on the side of those that are fighting for freedom and that we don’t take for granted the duty that we all have to ensure the survival of our own republic here at home."

See more photos from the event here.

Story by Brice Helms.