This op-ed appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Oct. 4, 2019.
By Marjorie Rendell
I attended a conference several years ago at which retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter told a story of a Russian lawyer who visited the Supreme Court. The lawyer asked Souter what he thought was the most important opinion of the modern Supreme Court. He replied, as many of us would, that it was Brown v. Board of Education.
Souter could tell that his answer disappointed the lawyer, so he asked which case the lawyer would have chosen. The lawyer cited the Nixon tapes decision, in which the Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to run over tapes of conversations he had secretly recorded. The Russian lawyer remarked that, in his country, a court could never tell the head of state what to do.
Souter said that, upon hearing this, he had “an epiphany”: We don’t teach our children civics, or how special our system really is.
At that moment, I, too, had an epiphany. I resolved to spend my judicial career — and my bully pulpit as first lady of Pennsylvania — trying to educate our children about ways in which the framers crafted a form of government that has been the envy of the world and, indeed, has been emulated by many nations over the years.
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