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Hodel Praises Constitution Despite Flaws

May 13, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel, responding to a Supreme Court justice's criticism of the Constitution's authors, on Tuesday praised the document's "essential greatness" and urged Americans to celebrate its 200th anniversary this year.

"While being mindful of the original imperfections, we still can rejoice that we Americans enjoy unique blessings made possible by our adherence to that Constitution," he said.

Hodel said he first felt "shock and dismay" when reading accounts of Justice Thurgood Marshall's speech to a lawyer's group in Hawaii last week. In that speech, Marshall criticized the men who wrote the Constitution for condoning slavery and denying women the right to vote.

Marshall also said he did not find "the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by the framers particularly profound."

Agrees on Failings

After reading the text of Marshall's speech, Hodel said he agrees that Americans should not overlook "those significant failings of the original document."

"But we can rejoice that the framers understood that they were human beings and, therefore, not perfect. Mankind, not being perfect, sometimes takes time--in retrospect, seemingly too much time--to recognize and to correct its mistakes," Hodel said.

"Just as surely, it often takes time--a long time--to realize the essential greatness of that which the framers, mere mortals, created," he added.

Hodel said the Constitution's authors were wise enough to provide a means for amending the original document, a process employed 26 times.

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