Dear Fellow Marylanders,
Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch who served as the head of state for the United Kingdom and Commonwealth for a remarkable 70 years, has died.
America fought two bloody wars against England so that we could become and remain a young democracy free from the reign of Elizabeth’s ancestors. In the words of our Declaration of Independence their “repeated injuries and usurpations, [led to] the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” So why should we mourn the passing of the British queen?
Thankfully, after the early battles, the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom evolved into something more family-like. Our modern partnership builds upon shared language and history, but also common values and the rule of law. Whatever you think of the concept of a monarchy or the entitlement that comes with it, our peoples have fought and died together, celebrated historic accomplishments and milestones together and – to this day – defend the free world together. Families do not always agree, but we weather challenges together.
On her 21st birthday while traveling in South Africa with her family, five years before she would become queen, then Princess Elizabeth would make a proclamation that defined her life. She said in 1947:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
Service. A life of public service is why Elizabeth II was no King George III.
Queen Elizabeth II left an incredible legacy. She provided stability to the United Kingdom, socially and politically, during extremely difficult times – from the rebuilding of her nation after World War II all the way to modern times, including the COVID-19 pandemic. A mother of four, she dealt with family conflicts and tragedies like the rest of us, yet she remained a constant and reliable presence for her people.
My family instilled in me the need for public service, as well. From a young age, I learned the need to give back to our community and that the opportunities available to me came with a responsibility to help others who did not have the same options.
In law school at the University of Maryland, I learned how the rule of law could be used to advance equity. I also was taught how we could use our talents as lawyers to advance equal justice under the law. And for decades, following the recommendations of the Maryland Legal Services Corporation Advisory Council that I chaired in 1987, University of Maryland law students must complete their “Cardin Requirement” to provide practical legal services for people in need. Each year, at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, more than 150 students contribute over 75,000 hours of free legal service to our local community.
Public service is part of my DNA. It led me to run for the Maryland House of Delegates while still in law school. I then took that desire to help more Marylanders to the U.S. House of Representatives and later to the United States Senate. At each stage, my focus has been on what I can do to make the lives of the people I represent better and more equitable.
It was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
This weekend, we also mark the anniversary of the deadly attacks of 9/11. On that day in 2001, we came together as a nation to condemn our attackers, but also in service to others. We thanked and supported those selfless first responders who rushed to the horrific scenes in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pa. We helped strangers who were stranded as our transportation system ground to a halt. We mourned together and took comfort in the knowledge that we were all Americans. By law, this day is recognized not solely as a day of tributes and unity, but as a “National Day of Service and Remembrance.”
We honor the memory of the 3,000 innocent lives lost on that day through service to others and our nation. As President Joe Biden said in his proclamation for 9/11, “When we come together on this day, and every day, we demonstrate that even in the darkness, America remains a bright beacon of light and hope for the world.”
Thank you for your service to our community. Whatever form it takes, whether a few hours a month or a lifelong career, each of us can make a difference in another person’s life. If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, please check out the resources available at AmeriCorps at https://americorps.gov/911-day.