"I was thinking the other day that the whole course of American history has been to make the Constitution more consonant with the Declaration of Independence: All people are created equal, in value, that is. The Constitution has 26 amendments. Two of them deal with prohibition. One of them deals with the judiciary. Three of them deal with the presidency. All the others, all 20, whether it's granting freedom to slaves, votes to women, eliminating the poll tax, instituting the income tax, lowering the voting age, allowing residents of D.C. to vote for the president, every one of them mandates an extension of democracy. The whole course of American history can be seen as a whole journey of very difficult social struggles in order to make democracy more vibrant, more just, to make what's legal more moral."
(from a 1995 interview
William Sloane Coffin Jr. died
yesterday, a controversial figure with an astonishing biography and lifelong passion for peace and social justice (who happened to spend a few years in the CIA along the way). Coffin was a visiting professor at Vanderbilt's Divinity School in the early 1990s. Vanderbilt emeritus professor Eugene Teselle tells PITW that Coffin, whose visiting stint occurred at the time of the run-up to the first Gulf War, was "a real presence." During a conference on "just war theory," just about everyone thought this was a war that had to be fought on just war grounds. It was Coffin, Teselle recalled, who saw the situation as less about war than "human pride." Teselle said of Coffin: "Any time he went into a room he just took over, but in a generous way."