I have the honor today of giving the 2018 Thomas M. Kerr, Jr. Lecture on Law and American Society at Carnegie Mellon University. My lecture will be on The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in the West and will be held in Gregg Hall (Porter Hall 100) on Thursday, April 26th from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.
It is particularly an honor for me to give the Kerr lecture because of the extraordinary man the lecture is named after. Thomas M. Kerr, Jr. was a renowned graduate from the George Washington University Law School. He became a leading advocate for civil liberties and civil rights, including work with the American Civil Liberties Union. He was called “Mr. Civil Liberties” and spent two decades as the President of the state ACLU.
Kerr taught antitrust law and business ethics at the Tepper School of Business. He retired in 2001 and passed in 2006. He left a deep and inspiring legacy for lawyers and lay persons alike. I could not think of anyone who would be a better model for students in contemplating their own careers.
My favorite Kerr story occurred when he was a young Marine recruit. On his way to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. He sat next to a black friend and, when they arrived in Washington, he was told by the conductor that his friends had to ride in another car due to racial segregation. Kerr protested and was forced off the train. It may have been his first civil liberties battle — fought with the passion and honesty that marked his entire illustrious career.
The lecture is sponsored by The Carnegie Mellon University Lecture Series, the Carnegie Mellon University Pre-Law Program, and the Dietrich College Dean’s Office.