Justice O’Connor: It’s Vital to Understand Our Constitution

by Ellen Kolb | October 24th, 2018

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Justice O'Connor: It's Vital to Understand Our Constitution

(Adapted from my post at Gran​ite​Grok​.com.)

In a state­ment released ear­lier this week, for­mer U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice San­dra Day O’Connor announced that she has been diag­nosed with demen­tia pos­si­bly related to Alzheimer’s dis­ease. She is there­fore step­ping back from pub­lic life. I sus­pect she’s all too famil­iar with what’s ahead; as I recall, one rea­son she left the Court in 2006 was to care for her hus­band who had devel­oped Alzheimer’s.

In her farewell state­ment, Jus­tice O’Connor makes a strong appeal for some­thing that means a lot to her: civics edu­ca­tion, and an appre­ci­a­tion for it. “I feel so strongly about the topic because I’ve seen first-​hand how vital it is for all cit­i­zens to under­stand our Constitution.…”

That strikes a chord.

Her full state­ment is just over a page long. Here are a few excerpts.

Not long after I retired from the Supreme Court twelve years ago, I made a com­mit­ment to myself, my fam­ily, and my coun­try that I would use what­ever years I had left to advance civic learn­ing and engagement.

I feel so strongly about the topic because I’ve seen first-​hand how vital it is for all cit­i­zens to under­stand our Con­sti­tu­tion and unique sys­tem of gov­ern­ment, and par­tic­i­pate actively in their com­mu­ni­ties. It is through this shared under­stand­ing of who we are that we can fol­low the approaches that have served us best over time – work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively together in com­mu­ni­ties and in gov­ern­ment to solve prob­lems, putting coun­try and the com­mon good above party and self-​interest, and hold­ing our key gov­ern­men­tal insti­tu­tions accountable.

…We must reach all our youth, and we need to find ways to get peo­ple – young and old – more involved in their com­mu­ni­ties and in their gov­ern­ment. As my three sons are tired of hear­ing me say, “It’s not enough to under­stand, you’ve got to do some­thing.” There is no more impor­tant work than deep­en­ing young people’s engage­ment in our nation.

I can no longer help lead this cause, due to my phys­i­cal con­di­tion. It is time for new lead­ers to make civic learn­ing and civic engage­ment a real­ity for all.

One might quib­ble about details; her ref­er­ence to gov­ern­ment as a problem-​solver is a civics ques­tion in itself. But I hope her call for the study of the Con­sti­tu­tion hits home.

Ellen Kolb is a New Hampshire-​based writer who blogs at Leaven for the Loaf and EllenKolb​.com.

You can sup­port inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ism by hit­ting DaTip­Jar. Many thanks!

(Adapted from my post at GraniteGrok.com.)

In a statement released earlier this week, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced that she has been diagnosed with dementia possibly related to Alzheimer’s disease. She is therefore stepping back from public life. I suspect she’s all too familiar with what’s ahead; as I recall, one reason she left the Court in 2006 was to care for her husband who had developed Alzheimer’s.

In her farewell statement, Justice O’Connor makes a strong appeal for something that means a lot to her: civics education, and an appreciation for it. “I feel so strongly about the topic because I’ve seen first-hand how vital it is for all citizens to understand our Constitution….”

That strikes a chord.

Her full statement is just over a page long. Here are a few excerpts.

Not long after I retired from the Supreme Court twelve years ago, I made a commitment to myself, my family, and my country that I would use whatever years I had left to advance civic learning and engagement.

I feel so strongly about the topic because I’ve seen first-hand how vital it is for all citizens to understand our Constitution and unique system of government, and participate actively in their communities. It is through this shared understanding of who we are that we can follow the approaches that have served us best over time – working collaboratively together in communities and in government to solve problems, putting country and the common good above party and self-interest, and holding our key governmental institutions accountable.

…We must reach all our youth, and we need to find ways to get people – young and old – more involved in their communities and in their government. As my three sons are tired of hearing me say, “It’s not enough to understand, you’ve got to do something.” There is no more important work than deepening young people’s engagement in our nation.

I can no longer help lead this cause, due to my physical condition. It is time for new leaders to make civic learning and civic engagement a reality for all.

One might quibble about details; her reference to government as a problem-solver is a civics question in itself. But I hope her call for the study of the Constitution hits home.

Ellen Kolb is a New Hampshire-based writer who blogs at Leaven for the Loaf and EllenKolb.com

You can support independent journalism by hitting DaTipJar. Many thanks!

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