Justice outlines war of ideas
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy criticizes the U.S. effort to promote democracy
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said the United States is not making the case for freedom, democracy and Western law to the rest of the world.
"Make no mistake, there's a jury that's out. In half the world, the verdict is not yet in. The commitment to accept the Western idea of democracy has not yet been made, and they are waiting for you to make the case," Kennedy said yesterday in an address to the American Bar Association convention, being held at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Kennedy, 70, said he fears that many parts of the world are not yet convinced that the American form of government as designed by the framers of the Constitution guarantees a better way of life.
"Our best security, our only security, is in the world of ideas, and I sense a slight foreboding," Kennedy said.
Kennedy, a moderate justice who has become a key swing vote on the Supreme Court, argued that the meaning of the phrase "rule of law" must be made clear in order to spread the cause of freedom to other countries. He avoided singling out specific nations.
He said the rule of law has three parts: it must be binding on all government officials, it must respect the dignity, equality and human rights of every person, and it must guarantee people the right to enforce the law without fear of retaliation.
"Americans must understand that if the rules of law have meaning, such as hope and inspiration for the rest of the world, it must be coupled with the opportunity to improve human existence," Kennedy said.
The United States' quest to spread freedom will only succeed if people in other countries accept the promises made by a democratic government, he said.
"For us, law is a liberating force. It's a promise, it's a covenant that says you can hope, you can dream, you can dare, you can plan," he said. "We must explain to a doubting world where the verdict is still out."
Kennedy, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1988, urged the several hundred attorneys in the audience to do their part to work for the preservation of basic rights and uphold the principles of the American justice system.
American Bar Association President Michael Greco discussed some of the same themes as he introduced Kennedy.
"Any threat to liberties and human rights in one country is a threat to the citizens of all nations," Greco said. "The most fundamental responsibility of members of the legal profession is to ensure that the law is used as an instrument to advance the basic principles of justice, fairness and equality."