Our Law Day essay winners and why voting matters

The Observer’s editorial board named its Law Day essay winners Thursday at the annual Mecklenburg County Bar luncheon commemorating Law Day, designated by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958 as a time to recognize the role of law in the foundation of the country and to recognize its importance for society.

Nationally known multimedia journalist and former Charlotte Observer executive features editor Mary C. Curtis was this year’s speaker, focusing on the national theme, “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.” And as the Bar does every year, it honored a non-lawyer with its prestigious award for service. This year's Liberty Bell award went to Ann Pfeiffer, executive director of Pat’s Place, a children’s advocacy center in Mecklenburg County serving sexually abused children. The center served 549 children last year.

Each year since 2001, the editorial board has joined with the Mecklenburg Bar in commemorating Law Day by sponsoring a student essay contest. This fits well with what we view as one of our prime obligations as a newspaper – to encourage civic engagement in our community, especially of young people. We want to provide opportunities for young people to speak out on issues and get them the civic education they need to become responsible and engaged citizens as adults.

This year's Law Day essay winner is Elizabeth Matulis, 18, of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ South Mecklenburg High School. She is the daughter of Richard and Margaret Matulis. She received $300. Runner-up Kirk J. Kovach, 18, of East Rowan High School in Salisbury, son of Dennis and Jill Kovach, received $100. Matulis’ essay can be found at

This year’s theme resonates. And the essays we received from students in our circulation area showed they are aware of the importance of voting. We were impressed with many of the 30 submissions. The students wrote passionately about this fundamental right and responsibility.

Matulis’ essay stood out for many reasons, but this line inspired us: “Voting is not only a responsibility,” she wrote, “it is a privilege that was fought for by our forefathers, and continues to be fought for by brave soldiers today. The right to vote is not something that should be squandered. It should be cherished, protected and exercised.” Well said.