When we began planning this issue of the UVA Lawyer, we decided to focus on the state of democratic governance in the United States and the world, a project that has been central to this law school since its inception. Though only a few short months have passed, that moment feels a lifetime ago. The global COVID-19 pandemic has transformed all of our lives on every level, leaving me, and I suspect many of you, with a sense that we will always think of life before and after it.
Here at the Law School, it has been an extraordinary time to be dean. In just the few days since the University moved classes online in support of the public health, our students, faculty and staff have more than risen to the challenge. Their compassion, generosity and resilience make me more grateful than ever to be the leader of an institution that pulls together in tough times. Each of us and each of you will experience losses great and small, which makes it more important than ever to support each other. During uncertain times, let us count on good friends.
The enormity of this crisis both puts the challenges facing democracy in perspective and underscores their critical importance. With the 2020 election looming, the rise of populism worldwide, and a contentious impeachment process only now behind us in the United States, many Americans are wondering how sound our form of democracy is, and how well it can serve us now and in the future.
Throughout our history, the Law School’s mission has been intimately engaged with the nation’s democratic values and their vindication. Though who makes up our intellectual community has broadened in every conceivable way from our founding, we continue to train our students for service to society and support our faculty as they gain new understanding of the law within its democratic context. We recently deepened this engagement when we launched the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy, with a historic gift from Martha Lubin Karsh ’81 and Bruce Karsh ’80. In asking, as our cover story does, what’s next, we draw on the expertise of faculty and alumni focused on campaign finance reform, bribery and corruption, voting, free speech, and executive power here and worldwide. We also profile an alumnus diving right into these waters as the new governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear ’03.
This issue does so much more than describe our fortitude in the face of the uncertainty of our public health and our efforts to better understand and support our chosen form of government. It also celebrates those who have newly arrived at the Law School and those moving on to new adventures. We highlight the amazing things our students, faculty and alumni have accomplished. And we commemorate those, like John Merchant ’58, the Law School’s first black graduate, who have made us who we are today.
As we put the finishing touches on this issue, I feel acutely the importance of publications like this one. More than ever, they bring us together across time and space and remind us of our shared mission and our connected community. More than ever, the UVA Law community sustains us today and renews our faith in a better tomorrow.