In light of the recent controversy over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, Harvard Law School Professor Randall Kennedy espouses his views on the subject in the May 12 edition of The New Republic online. In Kennedy’s opinion, the Constitutional provision that excludes non-native citizens from holding the nation’s highest office “makes second-class citizens of naturalized citizens by suggesting that they are somehow not as American and not as trustworthy as ‘real’ Americans who are native-born.”

“Whether or not this absolute bar based on nativity made sense at the founding, it is now dangerously unfair and unwise,” writes Kennedy.

Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at HLS and author of the forthcoming “The Persistent Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency” (Pantheon Books, August 2011). 

A Right of All Citizens

Why naturalized Americans should be allowed to run for president

by Randall Kennedy

The controversy over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate reveals that more is wrong with the United States than the presence of demagogues, bigots, and cranks. After all, the foundation of the birthers’ allegation was the Constitution of the United States, specifically Article II, which declares that “[n]o person except a natural born Citizen of the United States, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.” That provision invidiously discriminates against the many Americans (nearly 17 million in 2009) who were born abroad and have become naturalized citizens. Few people have realistic prospects of winning the country’s top elective office whatever their background. But excluding certain citizens from consideration based merely on nativity is unjust and self-destructive. … read the full article on »