If you walk by the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. you will most likely see a line of people waiting to get just a glimpse of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. These two aged documents are browned with time and sealed under layers of a secure glass enclosure in the domed lobby of the Archives. But they still manage to impress their visitors. The inked words of the Constitution, many of them carefully penned by Gouverneur Morris over 200 years ago, are now barely visible. While some foreign visitors may struggle to make them out, we Americans know them by heart. “We the people in order to form a more perfect union…” the Constitution starts, and what follows is one of the most awe inspiring and heartfelt treatises to freedom in the history of man. After all, this one document founded the most successful country the world has ever known.
Unfortunately, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn’t believe in the importance of the U.S. Constitution. Ironically, though her job is to “support the Constitution” (Article 6, U.S. Constitution) she instead did everything but uphold it last Wednesday. During an interview with Egyptian television network Al Hayat in Cairo, she was asked to give her opinion regarding the type of government Egypt should adopt as they try to rebuild their country following the Arab Spring. Her response? “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Though she extolled certain parts of the U.S. Constitution, she went on to propose Egypt instead use South Africa’s Constitution as a basis for their new government.
I am deeply saddened and disappointed in Justice Ginsburg’s answer. As a Supreme Court Justice who daily delves into the U.S. Constitution looking for answers to the nation’s top cases, I would hope she would have developed a love for this crucial founding document. Yet instead, she implied its irrelevancy! Why would our Constitution not be just as good a foundation for a nation’s government today as it was in 1788?
The answer is that it is, and always will be, an excellent foundation for the government of any nation. It was and still is the clearest legal protection of man’s freedoms on earth. Since our founding, our country’s unparalleled success and majestic display of human freedom has been a beacon of hope to the peoples of other nations. For years, immigrants from other countries have fled their oppressive or failing governments to come to our shores because they too sensed the meaning behind the words of our Constitution. I cannot think of another document I would more highly recommend to a country looking to make a fresh start.
I would ask Justice Ginsburg to rethink her answer and reconsider her position as a “supporter of the Constitution.” Better yet, I would encourage her to consider why people from all around the world line up to see the distinctly American documents of freedom every day at the National Archives. I hope that one day she will come to understand what the patriotic Americans in line at the Archives understand: the protection and freedom the founding documents offered to the American people over 200 years ago is just the sort of protection every country in the world needs.