Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is the first woman ever to serve on the nation’s highest court. Today, Justice O’Connor gives us her views on current issues and helps us understand the importance of the American judicial system.
Almost every country in the world has some kind of fundamental document, a constitution, if you will.
A crucial part of any written constitution is the guarantee of citizens’ rights. In America, this is called the Bill of Rights. During the American Revolution, each state had adopted its own constitution. Most of them included a clear declaration of the rights of all people. Most Americans believed that no constitution could be considered complete without such a declaration, and many state leaders might have prevented ratification of the U.S. Constitution if their demands for a Bill or Rights were not met.
It is in the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, that the most basic American freedoms are guaranteed — like the freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. Americans sometimes feel dissatisfied with the policies and practices of those who govern. But in fact, American citizens are ultimately responsible for protecting their own rights.
And we need education. We need the citizens to be educated so they can do their part when there are elections. You need citizens who understand the role of each branch of government because young people don’t inherit the concepts through the gene pool, every generation has to learn it. And that’s true around the world — you need education, first and foremost about the system of government and how the citizens can play a role in it, and I think this is of critical importance in every country, including my own.