Re: What inspires you?
Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He has taught at Yale since 1982. Carter is known for his legal and social policy writings, which include Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, The Culture of Disbelief, and God's Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics. He has also written novels, including New England White and The Emperor of Ocean Park. Carter's areas of expertise include constitutional law, contracts, intellectual property law, secrets and lying, and law and religion. He clerked for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III of the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals for and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was educated at Stanford University and Yale, where he earned his law degree.
Question: What inspires you?
Stephen Carter: I’m first and foremost a Christian, and that means not only that I draw my inspiration from the Bible, but also for me I’m an Orthodox Christian. So it’s also in the great creeds – the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicaean Creed and so on. And that is a bedrock for my life. And I wouldn’t say that I’m a great Christian in the sense that I always do what I think I ought to do; but I tend to . . . I once read a book by an Episcopal nun – yes there are Episcopal nuns. I once read a book from an Episcopal nun who said that you can’t see the future. And you can’t tell what God wants to do five years from now; but if you look carefully and take the time, you can generally tell what you’re supposed to do right now. And I try to think of things that way. I try to think about what I should do right now. I tend to be a thoughtful person. I tend to be someone . . . I don’t make snap judgments. I like to take time to think things over. And then when I make decisions I tend to stick to them; but they tend to be decisions I made over a period of time. We live in a world that encourages snap judgments, that rewards thinking fast. And I don’t think that makes for very good decision making.
My wife, I should say, is also a great inspiration to me. My wife is not only a Christian, but someone who tries to live her faith and really thinks very hard about the right thing to do. She currently is involved in issues that I think are of great importance. She is trained as a lawyer as I am. She’s with the Children’s Defense Fund as well as being in corporate law before that. She’s now affiliated with a couple of think tanks, and she’s interested in the future of mothering in America and in the world; and she’s interested in the co-modification of children in two senses – both the sense of which we might say the commercialization of childhood – advertising aimed at children, trying to create little consumers; and also co-modification in a different sense – the notion of designer babies and what does that say about humanity, about us, and about our future? She doesn’t go into these things as a shrill advocate. She goes into these things to try to understand the direction we’re moving and to try to encourage conversations about these directions. What I like about her approach is exactly that; that she wants to encourage conversation. What she wants to do is create a world in which people think about issues and then talk about them as opposed to go on television and rant and rave about them. I think that’s the kind of work that I wish more advocates would do. It’s the kind of work that I used to try to do.
Recorded on: 7/25/07
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