Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explains how “We, The People” has become ever more inclusive


Justice Ginsburg, this may be a little… a little too “think-y”, but I think it’s important to talk about. And that is the notion of originalism versus a living constitution. A majority of the current court believes, to one degree or another, in the notion that justices should interpret the Constitution as it was meant by the founding fathers when it was written in the late 1700s. That the original intent is what matters and the text as it was written and what it was intended. You and most of the justices you have served with, at least until now, have a somewhat different take. That, “The Constitution was written to be elastic enough,” as Justice Kennedy, now retired, put it, “to accommodate changes in society.” Could you talk about your thinking a bit? President Clinton said it so well in his introduction. A constitution begins with the words, we, the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union. So think about how things were in 1787. Who were we, the people? Certainly not people who were held in human bondage because the original constitution preserves slavery. Certainly not women whatever their color and not even men who own no property. It was a rather alien group, we, the people but I think the genius of our constitution is what Justice Thurgood Marshall said. He said he doesn’t celebrate the original constitution but he does celebrate what the constitution has become now well over two centuries. That is the concept of “we, the people” has become ever more inclusive. People who were left out at the beginning, slaves, women, men without property, Native Americans were not part of we, the people. Now all the once left out people are part of our political constituency. We are certainly a more perfect union as a result of that.

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