In her recent conversation with the National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a joke to illustrate the enduring power of our Constitution.
Rosen asked Justice Ginsburg if it was an unrealistic hope to bring conservative and liberal voices together at the Center, as part of a non-partisan effort to foster educational debates.
Her response was that sometimes we all need a reminder of the Constitution’s importance.
“This fundamental instrument of our government is something that children should know about,” she said.
And to illustrate her point, the Justice told a story—and a joke.
“I went to China some years ago and there was a story in the paper about “Justice Carries Constitution In her Pocket.’ And the Chinese reporter was impressed with that, because in many places, you have a Bill of Rights that was equivalent to ours and maybe much more fulsome in its coverage. But it’s aspirational. It isn’t real law.”
“The Constitution of the United States is our highest law. And it trumps any other law,” she reminded the audience at the Center.
“A constitution that has that position, that’s not just aspirational, and that stayed with us … there’s the old joke about somebody going to a French bookstore and asking for a copy of the French constitution, and the bookseller says, ‘sorry, we don’t deal in periodical literature.’”
Her closing point was that there is a need for place for discussions that honor the Constitution’s intent.
“Imagine this Constitution from 1787 and is still governing us. So yes, I think this is a marvelous facility,” she said. “There is this place that is spreading knowledge about this most remarkable instrument of government that we have. It is a treasure,” she said.
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