“Waving a pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer ” was the first “U.S. Supreme Court justice [who] took part in a live social media event.”

August 4th, 2011

But what kind of pocket constitution was it? Cato? ACS? FedSoc? Does anyone have a screengrab??? Here is the story from Harvard Law School.

Here are Justice Breyer’s comments about our Constitution, delivered in fluent French, to a group of Tunisian scholars delivered over video-teleconference.

“It’s short, it’s to the point, it has five important parts to it: democracy; protecting human rights; division of powers; equality and the rule of law,” Breyer said. “The main question is: why do people follow it? That’s taken us 200 years and a lot of history to establish, and it’s in part because the governing process in the United States bubbles up from the bottom, and is not imposed from the top. What we’re all trying to do is develop legal systems that protect us against arbitrary behavior. That’s an ongoing struggle … and I’m very glad to see we’re all dedicated to that, both [in Tunisia and the United States]. I’m very glad to have the opportunity to work together.”

On French:

On his interest in the French language, Breyer said: “It opens a window into different cultures all over the world. Since people in Francophone Africa and people in Anglophone Africa have very similar objectives in terms of establishing rule of law, there’s no reason that language should divide anyone.”

On drafting a Constitution:

In his address to the conference, Breyer stressed the importance of keeping a constitution both concise and abstract – because a country’s values are impermanent, the constitution must allow the country to adopt new rules in keeping with contemporary values. It is the responsibility of Tunisian scholars and jurists to interpret and understand the constitution they create, he said. He added that justices of the U.S. Supreme Court often make unpopular decisions, which help protect the minority from the majority.

“Concise and abstract”–of course!

Breyer told the conference attendees that the struggle for liberty is ongoing and requires perseverance, citing change in the United States as an example: One American president (Andrew Jackson) sent U.S. troops to force Native Americans off their land, while about 100 years later, another (Dwight Eisenhower) sent troops to protect children as they entered a newly desegregated school.

The single most important thing, Breyer concluded, is an educated population. He urged the Tunisian scholars to educate their fellow citizens on the values of civics, liberty and the fight against tyranny.