About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for The Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court: From Brandeis to Kagan


Welcome Remarks for The Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court: From Brandeis to Kagan
McGowan Theater, National Archives Building
May 4, 2017


Good evening. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m delighted to welcome you to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives for our program on The Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court: From Brandeis to Kagan with author David Dalin. Whether you are here in the McGowan Theater or watching on YouTube, thank you for joining us.

We are presenting this program in partnership with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and the Supreme Court Historical Society, and we thank them for their support. After tonight’s conversation, Dr. Dalin will sign books up in the lobby.

Before we get started, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up soon in this theater.

On Tuesday, May 23, at noon, Marie Jenkins Schwartz will be here to talk about her new book, Ties That Bound: Founding First Ladies and Slaves, and sign copies afterward.

At noon on the next two Wednesdays, May 24 and May 31, we’ll be showing the two parts of the PBS documentary, American Experience: JFK. First aired in November 2013, JFK weaves archival film and photographs with contemporary interviews to present a portrait of John F. Kennedy.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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Upstairs in the Rotunda, the original Constitution of the United States, signed by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, is on display. Every day of the week, thousands of people come to view it. Many of them bend down to examine the parchment through its glass protection, some trying to read the 18th-century script.

The Constitution is the foundation of our government, and it is the standard to which the Supreme Court of the United States looks when it decides the cases that come before it.

The many Supreme Court case files—both appellate and original jurisdiction—are preserved in the National Archives, as are opinions, docket books, minutes, attorney rolls, with our earliest records starting in 1790.  We also have the audio recordings of the Supreme Court, and the majority have been digitized and available online at this oyez.org.  We are working on a project to prepare all of these digital recordings for our online catalog, and we hope to have them available by September of this year.  

Since its founding in 1934, the National Archives has also hosted Supreme Court justices in person as well as in its records. And some of the justices we will discuss tonight have had close connections with this agency.

In the 1950s, Justice Felix Frankfurter served on the board of the National Historic Publications and Records Commission, followed by Justices Brennan, Rehnquist, Blackmun, and Souter.  In the 1960s, Justice Arthur Goldberg served on the Archivist’s Advisory Council.

Starting in 2012, the National Archives has had a series of conversations with the Supreme Court Justices of the United States, including Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito. Yale law professor and Constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar led the discussions, focusing on ideas, viewpoints, and issues related to the Constitution and their impact on the American people. Some of these conversations can be found on YouTube and UStream.

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Now let’s get tonight’s program started so we can all learn more about these Supreme Court Justices. Please welcome Russell Smith, President of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.