Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates Is the Hero We Need and Deserve
While acting as the Attorney General earlier this year, Sally Yates refused to enact President Trump’s first go at the now-infamous travel ban, resulting in her firing. In the time since she left her position at the Department of Justice, Yates has become an outspoken beacon in the fight for equality. Her stirring words about the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia were a good reminder of how to effectively support the side of anti-racism and core values, and in her essay for USA Today, she’s expanding on those ideas, asking, “who are we as a country?”
“Over the course of our nation’s history, we have faced inflection points — times when we had to decide who we are as a country and what we stand for,” Yates writes. “Now is such a time. Beyond policy disagreements and partisan gamesmanship, there is something much more fundamental hanging in the balance. Will we remain faithful to our country’s core values?”
The core values that the former AG is talking about are centered around what she calls “the rule of law.” These rules, Yates says, are the fundamental, bipartisan basis for all that America stands for — freedom for all people, civil liberties, the clear separation of church and state, and the guarantee that no person, regardless of their power, will be treated differently by the laws of the country.
It’s clear by her words that Yates is worried that these basic rights, set forth in our Constitution, may not be currently met. If they aren’t being met, is this what really want as a country? Yates even uses the preamble to point out that even before the rights of the constitution are laid out, the founding fathers wanted to make clear exactly what the document would be.
“We the people of the United States” (we are a democratic republic, not a dictatorship) “in order to form a more perfect union” (we are a work in progress dedicated to a noble pursuit) “establish justice” (we revere justice as the cornerstone of our democracy) “insure domestic tranquility” (we prize unity and peace, not divisiveness and discord), “provide for the common defense” (we should never give any foreign adversary reason to question our solidarity) “promote the general welfare” (we care about one another; compassion and decency matter) “and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (we have a responsibility to protect not just our own generation, but future ones as well).
Essentially, Yates wants to remind us that America is and should remain democratic, and that we should all strive to work towards progress. That we should ensure justice and democracy rule and always work towards unity and peace, not discord and disagreement. That we should stand united against foreign enemies, care about each other and protect not just ourselves, but consider what may happen for future generations of Americans based on how we behave today.
At the end, Yates says that these are not ordinary times, and that as a turning point in our history. That the truth is the most important way to help get us through. And that for truth to prevail, we should look to objective truth, and not allow that to fail.
“We are not living in ordinary times, and it is not enough for us to admire our nation’s core values from afar,” she urges. “Our country’s history is littered with individuals and factions who have tried to exploit our imperfections, but it is more powerfully marked by those whose vigilance toward a more perfect union has prevailed.”
“So stand up. Speak out,” Yates says. “Our country needs all of us to raise our collective voices in support of our democratic ideals and institutions. That is what we stand for. That is who we are. And with a shared commitment to our founding principles, that is who we will remain.”
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(photos via Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune + Getty)