Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at the NYU School of Law. Prior to moving to NYU, he was the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor of Law and Deputy Dean of Intellectual Life at Yale Law School, where he taught from 1998 to 2008. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College, took a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and earned his law degree at Yale Law School. A specialist in constitutional law, antidiscrimination law, and law and literature, Yoshino has published in major academic journals such as the Columbia Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. He has also written extensively in other popular venues, such as The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, Washington Journal, and The Tavis Smiley Show.
He is the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (2006) and A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice (2011).
Question: What is your outlook?
Kenji Yoshino: I think I am generally optimistic. They say . . . It’s interesting. They say that people who are depressed actually have . . . tend to have a better grasp of reality. So that if you’d say like, you know . . . you know what’s gonna be the outcome of this particular scenario, people who are depressed actually have a better understanding of what’s actually gonna happen. So they are cognitively more able than people who are not depressed. And so it makes it very interesting to think about why optimism is adoptive, right? Because we should have all been eaten by bears by now if we’re optimists, and we’re not assessing risks correctly. And I think where I come out on that is optimism actually gives you the agency to change the world. And it gives you the strength to actually go out there and to fight your fight. So I mean when I look at the world, I am extremely optimistic about issues that are very, very . . . that are probably the closest to my work and my heart, which is gay rights. Like I think that we will have same sex marriage within my lifetime not just in Massachusetts, but across the country. I think that this is a world historical achievement actually, if you look at . . . if you think about what a majority has been able to do to make common cause of our minority, and to really see that this is an issue that affects us all. With respect to the war on terror, I mean it’s very hard to be optimistic there except for in having some optimism that we haven’t sort of given up the game as progressives and said, you know, we’re just going to roll over and say, you know, if national security is a concern, then let’s just tear up the Constitution. You know I think that we have people who are fighting the good fight on that one. But there it’s very hard to be optimistic in the sense that our capacity to do harm for each other is only gonna increase as technology increases. You know the world is not getting any less diverse. It’s not getting any more harmonious. And so I think that the threat is gonna increase and increase. And my only optimism is looking at what we’ve been able to do so far and remaining confident that we’ll rise to that challenge.
Recorded on: 11/11/07
Last night three U.S. Supreme Court judges participated in the annual mock trial event in Washington D.C. Law professor Kenji Yoshino explains how these events use Shakespeare to teach us about justice.