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Turning the Page on Trump to the Work Ahead

Collage of images from the founding decades of the ACLU including photos and newspaper headlines
The ACLU has seen presidents come and go for 101 years. Our work continues.
Collage of images from the founding decades of the ACLU including photos and newspaper headlines
Anthony D. Romero,
ACLU Executive Director
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January 20, 2021

Picture it: The United States is riven by social unrest and political polarization. Millions of Americans feel unwelcome in the only home they’ve ever known. Thousands of immigrants are being rounded up, denied due process, and even deported. A rise in hateful, nationalist rhetoric is fueling anxiety over our borders, ​and stoking the flames of white supremacy and racial violence within them. Women — and even members of the LGBTQ community — are reaching new heights of visibility, political power, and personal autonomy,​ but also enduring violent backlash. As our democratic principles​ — ​from freedom of religion to freedom of the press — are under siege, masses of people, young and old, are taking to the streets to protest and demand their rights.   

The year is 1920.   

In response to this​ ​massive suppression of free speech and civil liberties, 101 years ago today, the American Civil Liberties Union was born. At the time, many of the rights outlined in the constitution were theoretical, untested by the courts, and of little practical meaning to most people, especially women and people of color. The founders of the ACLU set out to change that: ​to amplify the voices of the marginalized and secure civil rights, liberty, and justice for all. Decidedly intersectional, our founders included Helen Keller, Crystal Eastman, James Weldon Johnson, and of course, Roger Baldwin.
It’s deliciously fitting that the ACLU’s 101st birthday coincides with the very day Donald Trump leaves office. The ACLU has seen presidents come and go. As we know, some have tested this country’s dedication to democratic values more than others. Since Donald Trump took the oath of office, we’ve filed 413 legal actions, turned out thousands of people to airports, courthouses, and mass mobilizations. We filed our last legal action against the Trump administration on Friday. We stood watch until the minute Trump left office, and our watch continues. 
These past four years, we won victories to stop LGBTQ employment discrimination, protected and expanded voting rights, blocked state-level abortion bans, worked to reunite families needlessly separated at our Southern border, and battled Trump’s Muslim ban in court numerous times.
With his policies and rhetoric, President Trump tried to divide us. He tried to make us a nation of us versus them. He pitted immigrants against citizens, and fanned the flames of white supremacy while Black people were murdered by police. He called certain cities and states more deserving than others. He waged war against our free press.
After 101 years, we at ACLU are not surprised when presidents disappoint us. To be clear, we never believed that we were living in Donald Trump’s America. Rather, he lives in our America. In our United States of America, we the people means all of us. So rest assured that the ACLU will keep fighting to advance freedoms where we can, and defend them where we must. We are committed to working with but also holding President Biden and Vice President Harris accountable to the promise of our constitution. With our help, they will be the transformational leaders that our country needs and deserves right now. And thanks to people like you, we now have the strongest ACLU our nation has ever known. 
There is work to do to create a more perfect union. We know there are battles just around the corner to preserve the rights many have fought and won. We will work to forge an inclusive pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented and stateless people living in the United States — without caveats or tradeoffs. We join the chorus calling for this nation’s long overdue racial reckoning. 
The ACLU won’t rest until we live in an America where equality and justice are a lived reality for all of us. We never lost hope, and we are not only more resolute than ever. We are certain that our ACLU values and principles will continue to prevail for the next 101 years. “We the people” deserve — and will accept — nothing less.

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