Ensuring the Blessings of Liberty: How Should the Supreme Court Interpret the Constitution?
September 11, 2018


Tickets are available to members of the World Affairs Council and guests of Independence National Historical Park. Please see our Special Offers page to become a member.

Join us as we open the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia’s 2018–2019 program season with another in our The Stan and Arlene Ginsburg Family Foundation Great Debates Series, held at Philadelphia's Congress Hall, in partnership with Independence National Historical Park.

As the news is filled with the political fight over President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy's seat on the Supreme Court of the United States, two leading scholars and authors, with different points of view, will debate the proper intellectual framework by which the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution of the United States and apply it to the facts of cases presented by our ever-changing society.

Specifically, our debaters will face off around the doctrine of “originalism,” which calls for constitutional interpretation based upon adherence to the original understanding and intent of the drafters and ratifiers of the constitutional provisions in question in a particular case.

It is sometimes said that when it comes to interpreting the constitution, the Supreme Court is not final because it is right, but rather, it must be accepted as right because someone has to be final.

The legal doctrine informing the court in how it should execute this awesome power to say what the constitution means is one of the great and recurring questions in America’s system of government and one which, again today, may hang in the balance.

Sponsored by

The Doran Family Foundation

Presented in partnership with Independence National Historical Park
National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park

About the speakers:

Kermit RooseveltKermit Roosevelt works in a diverse range of fields, focusing on constitutional law and conflict of laws. His latest academic book, Conflict of Laws (Foundation Press 2010) offers an accessible analytical overview of conflicts. His prior book, The Myth of Judicial Activism: Making Sense of Supreme Court Decisions (Yale, 2006) sets out standards by which citizens can determine whether the Supreme Court is abusing its authority. He has also published in the Virginia Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, and the Columbia Law Review, among others. He has represented a detainee in the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He also is the author of two novels, Allegiance (Regan Arts, 2015) and In the Shadow of the Law (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005).

Ilan Wurman

Ilan Wurman is a Nonresident Fellow at the Stanford Constitutional Law Center and an attorney in Washington, D.C. Ilan is the author of A Debt Against the Living: An Introduction to Originalism (Cambridge 2017). His writing on administrative law and constitutional interpretation has also appeared or is forthcoming in numerous law reviews, including the Stanford Law Review and the Texas Law Review, as well as in national journals, including National Affairs, The Weekly Standard, and City Journal. He graduated from Stanford Law School, and from Claremont McKenna College with degrees in Government and Physics.

The Stan and Arlene Ginsburg Family Foundation “Great Debates” of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia explore the most pressing and vexing public policy questions facing our nation and the world, seeking to bring together some of the best and most provocative minds, with differing points of view, on these questions, creating a forum for audiences to decide for themselves “the whole truth.”

The “Great Debates” series is made possible by a challenge grant from:
SEI Private Wealth Management
UGI Corporation

Not a member of the World Affairs Council?  Call Margaret Keenan at 215-561-4700 ext. 222 to take advantage of Membership for discounted tickets to programs.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018 - Evening

Congress Hall
Independence National Historical Park
5th & Chestnut Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19106

5:30 p.m. Registration opens
6 p.m. Program
7:30 p.m. Conclusion


Young Friends Members & Students
• Program: $15

• Program: $40

To register using your company's corporate membership benefits, please call Margaret Keenan, Director of Development & Membership, at 215-561-4700 ext. 222.

For the accommodation of special needs during events (e.g. hearing/vision impairments, dietary restrictions, wheelchair accessibility), please call Hayley Boyle at 215-561-4700 ext. 227 or Kristi Scogna ext. 235.


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