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Week Four: The Voices of the American People

In the opening decades of the 21st century, all Americans face extreme challenges--among them global security, social inequity, and environmental catastrophe. Americans of all backgrounds will need to come together and unify around common solutions in order to address these problems. When Elena Kagan mentioned that the nation's high court must respect the, "choices made by the American people," she was not referencing the choices of beltway insiders, industry heavyweights, pundits of all stripes, or Justices in flowing robes. She was not talking about solely white, black, or brown Americans--about liberal, conservative, or libertarian Americans--she was referencing ALL Americans. This means that all of the previously mentioned viewpoints, backgrounds, and political leanings must be incorporated into the national narrative. No one group has a monopoly on truth and no single viewpoint is without its flaws--we all view the world with a specific set of lenses tinted by our backgrounds and philosophies. This is where the Judiciary branch fits into the national discussion--to interpret and apply the common and statutory laws of the land while respecting and incorporating the views of ALL Americans. Despite comments to the contrary of some Senators in the ongoing Kagan confirmation hearings, if permitted to serve, Kagan will be sitting on one of the most activist courts in decades. Since the seating of Chief Justice Roberts, the majority conservative court has chosen to rule on landmark cases addressing, among other things, rights of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, the rights of business entities to spend unlimited amounts of cash in election advertising, and, most recently, the sacrosanct right of all Americans to brandish weapons for self defense regardless of their geographic location. Having another female perspective to weigh in on the many issues facing the American people--while it will not change the overall balance of the court--will take us one step closer to towards an inclusive and accessible judiciary which respects the rights and voices of ALL Americans and will interpret and apply precedent and the constitution in order to correct the social, political, and environmental inequities of our time. This is the essence of an activist court. In this turbulent time in history, judicial activism, not judicial restraint, is what is needed to help our nation steer a successful course into the future. After Kagan says what she needs to say to get through this difficult vetting process, I wish her a long and distinguished career through which she may help to address the many challenges of our time.