David Bowsher (2017 RNLA VP for Programming & 2017 NPC Master of Ceremonies), White House Counsel Don McGahn (2017 Ed Meese Award Recipient), Former Attorney General Ed Meese, and Manuel Iglesias (RNLA Chair)
Today, the Honorable Edwin Meese III, 75th United States Attorney General, was honored by President Donald Trump with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House.
Mr. Meese, whose legal and political career notably began as an Assistant to then-Governor Ronald Reagan, has been an influential voice in American politics for over half a century. Meese served as President Reagan's second Attorney General, and prior to Senate confirmation, Counselor to the President. The announcement of the award stated:
This prestigious award is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, which may be awarded by the President to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Edwin Meese III has long been a thought leader and strong conservative voice on matters of law and policy. As Counselor to President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Meese helped to craft a foreign policy strong enough to end the Cold War and played a pivotal role in securing historic tax cuts. As Attorney General, he promoted Federalism and the original public understanding of our Constitution. Since leaving public service, Edwin Meese has continued to champion our Nation’s founding principles through his extensive work at The Heritage Foundation.
Through his thought leadership and efforts to select judicial nominees who respect the text of the law, Mr. Meese helped to revolutionize the legal world, away from legal realism and toward originalism and textualism:
Less well-known—though fully as bold and far-reaching in its impact—is the 1985 speech made by Meese, Reagan’s second attorney general, in which he called for a “jurisprudence of original intent” and for the U.S. Supreme Court and other judges to stop “making up law” out of ignorance or defiance of the meaning intended by those who wrote the Constitution.
“Constitutional fidelity, through originalism, is critical to religious liberty,” he said—and indeed, he added, to all other American liberties as well. The statement sent shockwaves through the American Bar Association, startled activist judges, and underscored the stakes for the soon-after incendiary hearings on the nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.
More than that, it galvanized a fierce and still-ongoing debate in law schools, legal journals, and courtrooms across the country. Mr. Meese raised an issue that has come to illumine much of the division that defines today’s politics: Do America’s founding documents stand for certain enduring truths and freedoms ... or for whatever each new generation decides they should stand for?
The elevation of that issue—and his determination to keep pressing it over the last three decades—has kept a line drawn in the sands of federal law, reinvigorated freedom-focused public interest litigation, and expanded the protection of personal freedom for two generations of Americans.
The Republican National Lawyers Association recognizes the achievements and service of General Meese, and since 2003, has bestowed the "Hon. Edwin Meese III" award on an individual who has upheld the rule of law in the face of adverse political challenges. It is presented annually at the RNLA National Policy Conference. The 35th anniversary National Policy Conference will be held April 23rd, 2020, in Washington DC.
The RNLA celebrates the career of Attorney General Meese, and extends our appreciation for his years of service to our Nation.