Laurence Tribe
Professor, Harvard Law School; Attorney; Author

Laurence Tribe on His Identity

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Tribe talks about becoming happier.

Laurence Tribe

Lawrence Tribe is an American constitutional scholar and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at the Harvard Law School. A longstanding proponent of liberal jurisprudence, in 2001 Tribe helped found the American Constitution Society a supposed liberal counterweight to the conservative Federalist Society and was long considered a possible Supreme Court nominee by a Democratic administration. Tribe received his A.B. in math from Harvard in 1962, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1966. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart from 1967-1968 and became an Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard in 1968, where has taught ever since. A fierce critic of many recent Supreme Court decisions, Tribe has argued over thirty cases before the Court, including the infamous Bush v. Gore in 2000, and is the author of Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, American Constitutional Law, and co-author of On Reading the Constitution (with Michael Dorf).  He is also a former Professor of President Obama and current supporter.


Question: How did you become who you are?

Laurence Tribe: You know I still think of myself as an artistic kid who loves math.  I saw somebody with a teacher the other day that said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”  And I still feel very playful in what I read, in the novels I read, and in the mathematics I try to keep up with.  I still do portraits, and landscapes, and seascapes, and rockscapes with pastels from time to time.  So I don’t see myself as very different.  I do see myself as happier, I think, than I was when I was growing up.  I have a different kind of self-doubt.  I think I use to doubt that I would succeed at various things.  Now I doubt that the success I had was deserved.  I used to … I used to doubt that my kids would be safe and I always worried.  Now I see them as wonderful parents in their own right and feel terrific about that.  But I doubt that I’ll be able to be as helpful to them as I would love to be still.  You know like all people they have problems.  They have issues.  They have things that they would like to have different in their lives.  My son teaches at Brown, but also lives with his wife and baby daughter in Manhattan.  It’s not easy to have a life like that.  So I still worry about things as I always have.  But I don’t recognize in my life some dramatic transition from someone who was the way that you described.  How old was I when I said that?  What year was that?