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Secretary Says Constitution Cause for Celebration

May 12, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In a rejoinder to a Supreme Court justice’s recent remarks that the Constitution was ″defective from the start,″ Secretary of Interior Donald Hodel urged Americans to celebrate the document’s 200th anniversary.

″We can rejoice that the framers understood they were human beings and, therefore, not perfect,″ Hodel said, noting that the men who wrote the Constitution were wise enough to provide a way to amend the original.

Hodel said he first felt ″shock and dismay″ when reading accounts of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s speech to a lawyers’ group in Hawaii last week, in which Marshall criticized the Constitution’s authors for condoning slavery and denying women the right to vote.

″Justice Marshall was right to point out that the Constitution, as originally drafted, was not perfect in all respects,″ Hodel said. ″We cannot and do not overlook those significant failings of the original document.″

But, Hodel added, ″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.″

Hodel’s comments were made at a ceremony designating the Supreme Court building, built in 1935, as a national historic landmark.

The building is one of six landmarks in a Constitution bicentennial project of the National Park Service. The others are the First Bank of the United States in Philadelphia; the Pittsylvania County Courthouse in Chatham, Va.; the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia; Sumner Elementary School in Topeka, Kan., and the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne.

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