(Photos by David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
Consider the facts of the case. Read the Constitution. Make a decision.
If only it were that easy, retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter said today at Harvard's 359th commencement.
He said the Constitution has "deliberately open-ended guarantees," offering a lot of general language in order to be useful over long stretches of time. He also says the Constitution contains values that may exist in tension with each other, not in harmony.
The "Constitution is no simple contract, not because it uses a certain amount of open-ended language, but because its language grants and guarantees many good things, and good things that compete with each other and can never all be realized, altogether, all at once," he told graduates, their familes, and guests gather on the sunny afternoon at the outdoor Tercentenary Theatre.
He said the job of justices is to interpret the Constitution for modern times.
"If we cannot share every intellectual assumption that formed the minds of those who framed the charter, we can still address the constitutional uncertainties the way they must have envisioned, by relying on reason that respects the words the Framers wrote, by facing facts, and by seeking to understand their meaning for the living," he said.
A total of 7,125 degrees and 89 certificates were awarded, including 1,673 undergraduate degrees in a service marked by pomp and rituals.
Souter himself was a 1961 graduate of the college and a 1966 graduate of the law school. He now lives in New Hampshire, though he occasionally hears cases for the First US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more