30 Howard L.J. 915 (1987)
The Constitution: A Living Document

handle is hein.journals/howlj30 and id is 941 raw text is: The Constitution: A Living Document*
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the United States Con-
stitution. A Commission has been established to coordinate the cele-
bration. The official meetings, essay contests, and festivities have
The planned commemoration will span three years, and I am told
1987 is dedicated to the memory of the Founders and the document
they drafted in Philadelphia.' We are to recall the achievements of
our Founders and the knowledge and experience that inspired them,
the nature of the government they established, its origins, its charac-
ter, and its ends, and the rights and privileges of citizenship, as well as
its attendant responsibilities.2
Like many anniversary celebrations, the plan for 1987 takes par-
ticular events and holds them up as the source of all the very best that
has followed. Patriotic feelings will surely swell, prompting proud
proclamations of the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice shared by
the Framers and reflected in a written document now yellowed with
age. This is unfortunate-not the patriotism itself, but the tendency
for the celebration to oversimplify, and overlook the many other
events that have been instrumental to our achievements as a nation.
The focus of this celebration invites a complacent belief that the vision
of those who debated and compromised in Philadelphia yielded the
more perfect Union it is said we now enjoy.
I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the mean-
ing of the Constitution was forever fixed at the Philadelphia Con-
* Remarks of Thurgood Marshall at the Annual Seminar of the San Francisco Patent and
Trademark Law in Maui, Hawaii on May 6, 1987. Although this article has been cited in several
places the The Howard Law Journal received permission from Justice Marshall on May 12, 1987.
.. Thurgood Marshall is a 1933 graduate of Howard University School of Law and was
appointed to Supreme Court in 1967.
1. Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, First Report, at 7
(September 1985).
2. Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, First Report, at 6
(September 1985).

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