Stanford Law Professor Pam Karlan Concludes 2006 ACS National Convention

June 22, 2006

On Sunday, June 18, 2006, Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan delivered closing remarks at the 2006 ACS National Convention. Her insightful -- and witty -- reflections explored a wide range of legal and policy topics and brought the Convention to a close on an inspiring note. Professor Karlan's address includes a number of concrete suggestions for how lawyers, law students and other concerned citizens can get involved in promoting and practicing progressive legal and policy values. Summarizing the theme of the Convention, which addressed "Democracy of the Rule of Law," Professor Karlan suggested that "we need a rule of law that's more than just a law of rules. We need laws that are just, and not just laws that satisfy the presentment clause."
Karlan also emphasized her belief that traditionally progressive groups have greater reason for patriotism than their conservative counterparts:

We have to seize back the high ground on patriotism and on love of our country, because we have more reason than they do to love America. The rich, pampered, prodigal, sanctimonious, incurious, white, straight sons of the powerful do pretty well everywhere in the world, and they always have.

But what about us? Snarky, bisexual, Jewish women who want the freedom to say what we think, read what we want, and love who we do. I don't want to keep other people from having the great opportunities I've had here in the United States. I want other people to share them. . . .

So the thing that makes America great is "We the People," and we have to remind people that we are the people. Not they, we. And so I'm inspired by Barbara Jordan, who was the first black person elected from Texas to Congress since reconstruction-as a result of the Voting Rights Act.

Now at the Watergate Hearings, here's what she said, and it's something that we need to take to heart:

Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, "We, the people." It is a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the seventeenth of September 1787, I was not included in that "We, the people." I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in "We, the people."

Today, I am an inquisitor; hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.

We need to feel that way too.

Video of Professor Karlan's remarks is available here.