On April 28, Stanford Law School students took 20 high schoolers from East Palo Alto’s Phoenix Academy to Yosemite National Park for the park’s annual Law Day celebration. The purpose of the Law Day trip, sponsored by the Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation (SPILF), was to show high school students the impact of the law and inspire them to consider careers in the law, and to expose those students to the beauty of Yosemite and the ideals of the National Park Service.
The SLS organizer of the trip, David Barnes, JD ’17, said the idea of taking East Palo Alto students to Yosemite Law Day came to him while interning as a federal prosecutor with the Yosemite Prosecution Office. “The beauty of our National Park System is that all citizens own our national parks equally. As Theodore Roosevelt so eloquently put it, our national parks exist ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of all.’” While interning at the park, Barnes said he quickly noticed “a complete lack of socioeconomic and racial diversity among the park’s visitors. “When I found out about Law Day, the first thought to come to mind was bringing a group of students from East Palo Alto. Thanks to SPILF, I was able to make this happen.”
In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Japanese Internment, this year’s program examined the legal lessons of the internment and how these lessons can be applied in modern society. The students, teacher chaperones, and SLS volunteers were captivated by powerful keynote speeches by the Honorable Wallace A. Tashima, Senior Justice of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sab and Marion Masada, all of whom were interned as children during World War II.
The first day of May is the day set aside by every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to celebrate the rule of law and equal rights for all in this country. This year’s Law Day Yosemite, which is the park’s fifth, addressed a time when these principles fell by the wayside. The overarching theme of the day was that the law can dramatically shape lives, both for the better and worse. “After hearing firsthand the horrors of the Japanese Internment and seeing what happens when the law is applied unjustly,” Barnes noted, “we explained to the students the very fact we can all enjoy Yosemite today was the law being applied for the greater good. The students were truly moved by this message.”
Barnes noted that he hopes that sponsoring a trip to Yosemite Law Day becomes an annual tradition for SLS. “From Don Tresidder to David Starr Jordan, Stanford University has a long history of making a difference at Yosemite National Park. Seeing the excitement on the students’ faces as they gazed upon the raging waters of the Merced River, the sheer size of El Capitan, and the immeasurable beauty of Half Dome was an experience that none of the volunteers will ever forget.”