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Partisanship has 'torn us apart,' chief justice says

Published September 26, 2006

You may not have known it, but U.S. Constitution Day was Sept. 17.

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg brought the Florida Supreme Court's Chief Justice, R. Fred Lewis, to town Monday to speak about the importance of the U.S. Constitution.

About 120 people came to hear Lewis' speech, in which he talked about the Constitution's value in an era of terrorism, technology and partisan politics.

Some excerpts:

Terrorism: "Terror is a tactic. It's not identifiable, not a nation, it's not a group. It's just a tactic that people engage in to thrust us to where we ought not be. And I fear that it appears to be succeeding."

partisanship: "[George Washington] warned us about becoming too partisan, about separating at the seams, about becoming so party-affiliated that we lose sight of what's good for the nation. I'm here to talk to you about this great nation, to share with you how I think we're having some problems as those lines have separated us at the seams, have torn us apart. We're more alike than we are different."

Religious freedom: "The very foundation of this great land was religious freedom, religious tolerance . . . Are we mixing government and religion to the extent that the line is becoming blurred between the two? If so, is that where we ought to be?"

Democracy: "Democracy is not utopia. It's not a picture-perfect thing. It's got warts, it's got blemishes, it's got pimples. But that's okay. You don't withdraw from it just because it's got a problem."

THE Constitution: "(The Founding Fathers) . . . live on in our court documents. They live on in our beliefs. They wrote for you and me a little guidebook on how we get through this together, how we survive with one another."

freedom of the press: "The basic freedom of the press, what's happening to the press these days? The founders thought we should have a free flow of ideas. But as we look, newspapers are becoming part of one big corporate empire. We're relying on independent reporting from the Internet and other sources, but the question becomes: Are they sufficient to give you and I the facts and information that we need?"

the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: "Are you so shaken by the events of the last four or five years that you're ready to shake off your core values? Is fear ruling you?"


[Last modified September 26, 2006, 01:03:18]

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