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If you like Anthony M. Kennedy's story, you might also like:
David Boies,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Rudolph Giuliani,
Alberto R. Gonzales,
Frank M. Johnson,
George J. Mitchell,
Ralph Nader,
Anthony Romero,
Albie Sachs,
Barry Scheck,
John Sexton and
Antonio Villaraigosa

Anthony M. Kennedy's recommended reading: Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Anthony Kennedy
Anthony Kennedy
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Anthony Kennedy Interview (page: 6 / 6)

Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

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  Anthony Kennedy

Is there anything you would like a second chance at, that you would like to do over again?

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Anthony Kennedy: I would like to begin teaching more students. I've taught many, many students, I wish that I could have taught more. I wish that I could find a way to reach more young people. The way I do it now is somewhat hit and miss. I teach classes and I go to universities. I wish there were some more formal way for me to write or speak and to try to interest more people in what I think is the true dynamic of the law and the true dynamic of freedom.

Looking ahead, what concerns you most? What are your major concerns as we head into the 21st century, for this country, for the world?

Anthony Kennedy: My major concern is that what I thought was the golden age of peace seems farther from our reach than I would have thought ten years ago. My major concerns are that there is not an understanding and a commitment to the idea that the American constitutional system and the American idea of freedom have certain universal components that we have the duty, number one, to understand ourselves, and number two, to explain to the rest of the world. Not at the point of a bayonet. That's sometimes necessary, but not at the point of a bayonet, but because we have a bond with all of humankind. I don't think that we are looking far ahead enough in this respect, and I am concerned that nationalism or self-interest will obscure the greatness of American traditions.

What about the contentiousness of American life today, including the judiciary and politics?

Anthony Kennedy: I think we have to do a better job of being less divisive, less narrow. Part of this is because our focus is too short term. If we had a long term objective and a consensus of long term mission, it would be less factious.

What books would you read to your grandchildren? What are the important books to you?

Anthony Kennedy: The minute I give you this list, I'll walk out the door and I'll say, "Why didn't I mention this book?"

I think fiction is very important because it gets us into the mind of a person. Hamlet is a tremendous piece of literature. You know Hamlet better than you know most real people. Do you know the reason? Because you know what he's thinking. And this teaches you that every human has an integrity and an autonomy and a spirituality of his own, of her own, and great literature can teach you that. Billy Budd, Antigone, are very important works. Antigone is brilliant. You know, in literature, the woman is a symbol of mercy and of equity: Antigone, Portia -- Rosa Parks, to use a real person. That's why Justice is a woman, even though she has a sword sometimes. I don't know if that fits, but so: Antigone, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Billy Budd, Nineteen Eighty-Four. You and I grew up with a great fear of the Soviet military might. Nineteen Eighty-Four has one of the most brilliant scenes in literature. The protagonist is being tortured by his communist or totalitarian interrogators, and they want him to say that "Two and two is five." And finally he can't stand the torture anymore, he says, "Okay, two and two is five." But, the torture continues. He said, "Why are you continuing?" They say, "The torture continues not until you just say it, but until you believe it." And, this is a powerful reminder that governments want to plan your destiny. They want to plan what you think, and this must never happen. And so, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a book of tremendous importance, I think, in that regard.

Movies, I think young people misjudge. If you ask high school students what are good books, they usually come up with fair answers, the books they get in college prep courses. So they usually recite some of those types. Scarlet Letter? Excellent! Walden Pond? Terrible, I think. My own choice, I don't like it. But movies? They have no concept that great movies have an ethical development; a spiritual awareness happens to the character. They think movies are just entertainment. And so -- Old? Forget it! Subtitles? Forget it! Black and white? Forget it! They think of movies as having special effects for momentary entertainment, and that's very sad. I'm afraid the producers think of it that way, too, and that's very sad, because movies are a wonderful way to teach about human struggle, human conflict, human reconciliation, human atonement.

How would you like to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be?

Anthony Kennedy: Somebody who's decent, and honest, and fair, and who's absolutely committed to the proposition that freedom is America's gift to the rest of the world.

We can't thank you enough. It's been a privilege.

Well, thank you.

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This page last revised on Sep 23, 2010 15:28 EST
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