Today is National Constitution Day. It is so timely that I am teaching my Introduction to Law class this evening and we are discussing the judicial system, civil procedure and judicial remedies. As I provide foundational legal concepts and information to my students, I also offer a practical approach on how the law impacts all of us in our daily lives.
We begin our learning journey discussing the U.S. Constitution. When we learn about the Eighth Amendment with a focus on capital punishment, the students break out into small groups to discuss information and data about the death penalty. It is usually an eye-opening experience for many of them.
When we discuss Equal Protection of the Law (Fourteenth Amendment), we spend time on the U.S. Supreme Court Case, Mendez v. Westminster, a case that preceded the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, by eight years and was decided in the federal courts of California. We talk about the how the law is dynamic and changes to reflect the current values of society. I remind the students that this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. I also play an audio clip of the impeachment speech given by Barbara Jordan (first African American woman to become Senator of Texas and later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives) on July 25, 1974:
“Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: “We, the people.” It’s a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that “We, the people.” I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in “We, the people.”
Today I am an inquisitor. An hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution.”
Our system is not perfect. As our country grapples with issues of racial injustice and gender inequalities, we must recognize those who have paved the way and continue to do the necessary work to create justice for all, particularly those who are underrepresented. Representation matters.
The National Constitution Center will award its 32nd annual Liberty Medal to the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, for her efforts to advance liberty and equality for all. The National Constitution Center will honor Justice Ginsburg through a video tribute in words and music debuting Thursday, September 17, 2020, at 3:30 p.m. PT. National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen will host a live conversation with former law clerks of Justice Ginsburg, Kelsi Corkran and Amanda Tyler after the video tribute.
Conversation with Former Law Clerks video: