J. Reuben Clark Law Society

JRCLS Annual Conference Opening Devotional

JRCLS members gathered from across the world for the 2012 annual J. Reuben Clark Law Society Conference at the Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, California. Held over President’s Day weekend, the conference began with a devotional on February 16 at the Stanford Memorial Church which houses beautiful biblical art and five pipe organs. The devotional featured two brothers and their sister, namely organist James B. Welch (Ph.D. in organ performance, Stanford University), Tabernacle Choir soprano singer Barbara Welch Cramer, and BYU Law Professor John W. (Jack) Welch, who spoke on “The 21st Century as the Century of Duties?”

Professor Welch’s remarks centered on the underrepresented importance of individual obligation. “Rights and duties go hand in hand,” Welch said. “We talk lots about rights and privileges but much less about duties and accountabilities. There is something wrong here.”

Citing general examples that characterized the past hundred years, Professor Welch pointed out that the 20th century would no doubt go down in history as the “century of rights.” Often the emphasis on rights has been accompanied only by the idea that if one individual has a right, then someone else has a duty to fulfill that right. But there is more to it than that. As both rights and duties are necessary for society, he hopes the 21st century will bring an increased recognition of the need for duties.

Professor Welch issued a call to action to help balance the rights-duties budget by calling on individuals to fulfill whatever obligations attend to the exercise of that individual’s rights. “No one person can simply say because I have a right someone else has a duty to satisfy my right without me having some obligation as part of the package,” he said. "Let's watch carefully for opportunities to give more attention to duties and their linkages with rights."

Similar to our Bill of Rights, Professor Welch suggested that we move toward a Bill of Duties, and to begin seeing them in the Constitution, especially in the Preamble. He invited listeners to emphasize these duties by way of speaking out through social media, reading books and articles on duties, and collecting and spreading stories of individuals who have provided extraordinary examples of emphasizing the importance of duties.

A transcript of Professor Welch's speech will be available soon.

Posted: 2012-02-27