Justice John Paul Stevens held court at the National Constitution Center. April 28 2014 during a program that was streamed live on their website. Stevens, who is on a short tour promoting his book: Six Amendments: How and Why we Should Change the Constitution spoke for about 50minutes during the presentation. Justice Stevens retired in 2010 and was on the bench since 1975.
He has seen a lot and heard a lot. During the program, he was asked about his feelings on affirmative action, and the legalization of Marijuana. "Public perception can change a lot in a short period of time", he said. One only has to look at Gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana to see what he is talking about. In 1975 both were unheard of.
Gun control is another hot issue. Responsible gun ownership is a right. "Militia's were formed to insure the government would not get too big", the Justice said. The second amendment insures that A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. In his book , Justice Stevens addresses that very issue. The argument, is over the word militia. It is interesting how some legislators would like to interpret that to mean citizens can have nothing more than single shot muskets ,and others have no problem with Bob down the street having an assault rifle. The words well regulated can have different interpretations as well
Gerrymandering was also discussed. That encompasses the district lines that make up voting districts. Some people take it to an extreme and think that a corporation should be able to vote. The Justice shot that down quickly, he was opposed to a company voting in every congressional district in the country much less the one they are incorporated in. The topic of gerrymandering will be discussed at a future town hall event at the National Constitution Center.
The program was fun and very informative. However there were complaints about the moderator. Brooke Gladstone from WNYC , who would interrupt the Justice, and engage him in arguments as if she was an attorney arguing a case. When it came time for audience question and answer, Gladstone would flip through cards with questions, asking the ones she wanted to ask. That meant,a lot of peoples questions were not asked. She claimed some an excuse. A better way is to have a microphone go around the audience. Should someone try to hijack the program,the mic gets cut and onto the next question. Many people feel that Jeff Rosen, the CEO of the NCC should have been the moderator as he has done a fantastic job with other events and he is a constitutional expert.
It is unfortunate that Justice Stevens was not able to sign copies of his book after the show. The program started just after 6:30 p.m.and lasted a little over an hour. It was a perfect time for an event like this to happen. People can grab a dinner in center city before or after the event, and not be home too late. It is very convenient to those that work in town, as they can attend the program and still be home at a reasonable hour. This program was attended by many lawyers throughout the Philadelphia region.
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