From an HLS classroom, some advice
Seated in Harvard Law School’s Areeda Hall on July 22, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer ’64 discussed, via live stream, the foundations of American democracy with Tunisian scholars at a conference hosted by NGO Almadanya in Tunisia. Organized under the auspices of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, the video conference, which was streamed live on Facebook, marked the first time a U.S. Supreme Court justice took part in a live social media event.
During the dialogue, Breyer said the key points that should be made about the American Constitution are that it’s short, it’s to the point and it has five important parts to it: democracy; protecting human rights; division of powers; equality; and the rule of law. “The main question is: Why do people follow it? That’s taken us 200 years and a lot of history to establish.”
He 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. He said that it is the responsibility of Tunisian scholars and jurists to interpret and understand the constitution they create.
Breyer said he hoped his discussion, which was conducted entirely in French for the benefit of conference attendees, would help drive the conversation in Tunisia, where representatives will be elected on Oct. 23, 2011, to pen the country’s new constitution.