Marshall Scholar 5 Questions with Jeffrey Rosen
President & CEO, National Constitution Center — ’86 Marshall Scholar
1.Tell us a little bit about your current work.
Since 2013, I’ve been fortunate to head up the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. It’s a dream job — constitutional heaven! The Constitution Center is a private non-profit that was created by the U.S. Congress during the bicentennial of the Constitution with an inspiring mission: to promote non-partisan constitutional education and debate. We’re housed in a beautiful Museum of We the People on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, with America’s greatest views of Independence Hall, where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were drafted. We display rare first drafts of the Constitution, and one of the twelve original copies of the Bill of Rights.
In addition, we host an online Interactive Constitution that’s gotten 10M hits since it launched in 2015. Co-Sponsored by the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society, the Interactive Constitution, available in the App Store and at constitutioncenter.org, features the top liberal and conservative scholars in America discussing areas of agreement and disagreement. In addition, the Constitution Center hosts constitutional debates across America, and on our weekly We the People Podcast, uniting liberal and conservative scholars to discuss constitutional issues in the news. There are so many other exciting initiatives for constitutional education — we’ve just launched a bi-partisan national Commission called a Madisonian Constitution for all. Co-chaired by Senators and Representatives from both parties, the commission will ask what Madison would have thought of our current Congress, presidency, courts and media, and how we can resurrect Madisonian values of constitutionalism and the rule of law in the face of populist threats in America and around the globe. In our polarized age, it’s so important to help Americans of all ages educate themselves about the constitutional values that unite us. And it’s such a privilege to serve as a non-partisan convening space for civil dialogue and constitutional debate.
2.How did becoming a Marshall Scholar help prepare you for your current career?
My time at Oxford led to most memorable travel and closest friendship of my life. Nearly three decades later, the friends I made at Oxford are still in close touch. And when my kids were young and eager for bedtime stories, it was always tales from the Oxford travels that they most craved. Viewing America from a British and European perspective was an invaluable introduction to American exceptionalism, comparative constitutionalism, and the shared legal and constitutional values of the U.S.-U.K alliance — all topics that we focus on at the Constitution Center.
3.What was your fondest memory of the UK (or time as a Marshall)?
Unforgettable travels with friends, to Eastern Europe before the fall of the Wall, Kenya and Tanzania, Israel for the first time, and Scotland. Also, hanging out at the White Horse, Magdalen Deer Park. or the Hollywell Manor Courtyard. And those amazing weekends in London.
4.When you were in the UK, what did you notice was the biggest difference between British and American cultures and how did your experience shape your views on the relationship between the US and UK?
I experienced for the first time the culture of debate in the U.K., Britain’s great gift to parliamentary democracy, in which intellectual and political disagreement is something to be prized rather than avoided. I came to understand that Britain is as culturally different from the U.S. as France is, despite our common language, and I also came to appreciate the Anglo-American values that bind us — respect for the rule of law, freedom, limited government, and fair play.
5.What advice would you give to students who are thinking about applying for the Marshall Scholarship?
Develop an intellectual passion and pursue it with focus, creativity, and joy. Carve out a unique intellectual path that can help educate others. Love learning and share that love with others. Learn about and exemplify the shared values of freedom, decency, and devotion to the rule of law exemplified by George Marshall and the great alliance between the U.S. and the U.K.
Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis. Rosen is also a professor at The George Washington University Law School, and a contributing editor for The Atlantic.
He is a highly regarded journalist whose essays and commentaries have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, on National Public Radio, and in The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer. The Chicago Tribune named him one of the 10 best magazine journalists in America and a reviewer for the Los Angeles Times called him “the nation’s most widely read and influential legal commentator.” He received the 2012 Golden Pen Award from the Legal Writing Institute for his “extraordinary contribution to the cause of better legal writing.”
Rosen is the author of “Louis Brandeis: American Prophet”; :The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America”; “The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America”; “The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age”; and “The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America.” He is co-editor, with Ben Wittes, of “Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change.”
Rosen is a graduate of Harvard College; Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar; and Yale Law School.