Justice Souter’s Speech: A Conversation Begins

The national media again take note of a Harvard Commencement address.

Some audience members may have been puzzled by the constitutional history lesson, rather than traditional graduation send-off, that retired Supreme Court associate justice David H. Souter ’61, LL.B. ’66, delivered on the afternoon of Commencement day, May 27—a challenge to the “originalist” or “fair reading” model for interpreting the U.S. Constitution put forward by conservative theorists. Initial media coverage of the speech was low key. But the past week has seen a succession of op-ed columns and editorials acknowledging his contribution to the national debate on the proper role of judges and justices in applying the sometimes contradictory values enunciated by the authors of that fundamental national document. Read responses to the speech by E.J. Dionne Jr. ’73 of the Washington Post; Linda J. Greenhouse ’68, blogging for the New York Times; and the editors of the Los Angeles Times and of the New York Times. Also weighing in, the Keene Sentinel, from Souter's native New Hampshire, and from Great Britain, blogger Michael Tomasky of the Guardian.

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