About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for The Nature of Constitutional Rights: The Invention and Logic of Strict Judicial Scrutiny

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
September 17, 2019

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us today, whether you are in here in this room or participating through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from today’s guest speaker, Richard Fallon, Jr., I’d like to alert you to two programs coming up soon in this theater.

Tomorrow evening, at 7 p.m., we present a special advance performance of 19: The Musical, which uses music, spoken word, and dance to tell the story of the fearless women who fought for the right to vote and passage of the 19th Amendment.

And on Friday, September 20, at noon, we will show two films relating to women in early motion pictures—Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema and Silent Feminists: America`s First Women Directors.

Both of these programs are part of the series of events related to our current special exhibit Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information 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. Check out their website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

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Today is Constitution Day, commemorating the day in 1787 when the delegates to the Constitution Convention signed the new charter for a federal government. The signing was not the end of the process but the beginning. During the state-by-state ratification process, the promise of a bill of rights became a necessary condition for acceptance.

After winning independence from Great Britain only a few years before, Americans wanted guarantees for their hard-won rights. Thomas Jefferson, writing to James Madison in late 1787, declared that “a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, & what no just government should refuse or rest on inference.”

Those rights—now our “constitutional rights”—have been guarded and cherished for more than 200 years. Today’s guest author, Richard Fallon, Jr., explores the nature of constitutional rights, what courts must do to identify them, and why their protections are more limited than most people think.

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Richard Fallon, Jr., joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1982 and is currently the Story Professor of Law and an affiliate professor in the Harvard University Government Department. Fallon is a graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School. He also earned a B.A. degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University (1977), which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. Before entering teaching, Fallon served as a law clerk to Judge J. Skelly Wright and to Justice Lewis F. Powell of the United States Supreme Court.

Professor Fallon is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Law Institute. He is a two-time winner of Harvard Law School’s Sacks-Freund Award, which is voted annually by the school’s graduating class to honor excellence in teaching. He has written extensively about constitutional law and Federal courts law, and his 2018 book, Law and Legitimacy in the Supreme Court, received the Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize from Georgetown Law’s Center for the Constitution.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Richard Fallon, Jr.