Whenever Ukraine is in the headlines, the news is bad. Border disputes, business shenanigans — even Chernobyl is there.
Rule of law has broken down in the Eastern European nation.
We’re going through a rough patch ourselves. But a few months ago, during the impeachment process, Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs decided to do something in support of our country’s faith in law. It’s something, they said, that’s fundamental to our democracy, and separates us from many other nations oppressed by tyranny.
Because Ukraine is desperately trying to expunge corruption from both its political and legal systems, the clubs — Sunrise Rotary, and the noontime Rotary Club — decided to focus their efforts there.
Ken Bernhard — an attorney, constitutional law professor and former state representative — had also taught in Ukraine. He contacted Professor Demitriy Kamensky of the Berdyansk State Pedagogical University.
Kamensky — who has an LLM in taxation, a Ph.D. in criminal law, and taught at Florida State College of Law — said the clubs’ timing was perfect. Berdyansk State had hoped to construct a moot court setting, to resemble one in their country’s actual legal system. It would provide a training environment for aspiring litigators.
Westport’s 2 Rotaries contributed $2,500 each. The courtroom was opened last week.
Thanks to our friends at Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club for their support of the rule of law in Ukraine, which is no longer a distant, foreign principle. Indeed it affirms that reality for our law students, faculty and legal professionals.
The moot courtroom has become a place to learn how the judicial systems operates within a free, democratic society. This is where legal theory meets legal practice, where new skills are learned and progressive legal tools are examined. We are very grateful to the clubs for their confidence in our legal community.
It seems like a small gesture. The impact on Ukraine’s legal system will not be felt for a while — and it can never be measured.
Rotary clubs raise money so that they can give it away. (And they keep doing it, despite a steep drop in fundraising during COVID).
Combine that with the fact that “Supporting education” is one of Rotary’s six areas of focus.
Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self.” “Supporting education” is one of their 6 areas of focus.
From Westport to Ukraine, today there is living — and legal — proof that it matters.
(For information on the Westport Rotary Club, click here. For Westport Sunrise Rotary, click here.)
Ken Bernhard making the world a better place. We should build a statue!
I have never met anyone who does not have the greatest respect for Ken Bernhard. Also, he loves dogs.
Ukraine has done very well given its Soviet legacy – having suffered a Stalinist genocide during the Holodomor, Communist repression, and currently being the victim of a Russian invasion in the east (and, since 2014, of an illegal occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea). Thousands of people have been killed by the Russians, and many tens of thousands more displaced as a result of this ongoing war in Europe. Even so, the next generation of Ukrainians is fully committed to ensuring Ukraine retains its rightful place in Europe. Helping them with projects like this one is certainly good news and to be applauded. But spare me opening lines about news from Ukraine always being “bad news.” No one who has ever spent any time there would accept that as an accurate description of Ukraine and its people in the 21st century. Given the ignorance, indifference, and sometimes hostility of the Anglo-American world to Ukraine’s independence, and the crippling legacy of Soviet oppression over decades, it’s little wonder Ukraine still has its issues. However, those are far from insurmountable or so enervating as to be determinative of Ukraine’s future. Ukraine is a functioning democracy, defending itself bravely against a Russia run by Putin, that ex-KGB man in the Kremlin, and president in perpetuity, a killer who supports fellow dictators as they engage in murderous conflicts (e.g. Syria) or further suppress human rights (e.g. Belarus), to say nothing of poisoning or murdering journalists and opposition leaders who have tried to recover the rule of law in the so-called Russian Federation (e.g. Navalny). Perspective please (but thanks to the Westport Rotary Club for doing what you do to help Ukraine!).