CU celebrates Constitution Day (Online Exclusive Ext. Edition)

Illustration by Lee Hulteng

Illustration by Lee Hulteng

Casey Brown
A&E Editor
@CaseyBrown_CU

The Department of History and Government hosted the annual Constitution Day event at 2 p.m. on Sept. 17 in the CETES Conference Center.

CU holds Constitution Day annually due to a Federal regulation that states all public institutions and government agencies receiving federal money must celebrate Constitution Day in some way.

This year’s event included refreshments, Bill of Rights bookmarks, a guest speaker and audience questions.
Chair of the Department of History and Government Dr. Lance Janda said CU celebrates Constitution Day on or around Sept. 17.

“The idea is to keep Americans aware of the Constitution and how important it is so they can be active citizens,” Janda said.

This year’s speaker was Brady Henderson, Legal Director at ACLU Oklahoma.
Henderson spoke about many of the constitutional issues that have recently affected Oklahoma such as the Hobby Lobby decision regarding the Affordable Care Act, and he emphasized that the U.S. Constitution is a document that was created to divide power.

“What the 55 [delegates at the Constitution Convention] came up with was a document that is all about dividing power,” Henderson said. “It is all about deciding who has what authority… What I’m going to talk about is entirely concerned with power, not with ideals.”

Henderson said many people consider the ideals of the Constitution first, but that attorneys, judges and congresspersons think about it differently.

“One of the first things I think they say when they talk about the United States Constitution is we talk about the ideals that are expressed,” Henderson said. “We talk about freedom, we talk about liberty, we talk about free speech, we talk about religious freedom, we talk about due process of law, and we talk about equal protection.

“But I would tell you as an attorney who works with constitutional principles regularly that that isn’t really how the lawyer looks at the Constitution in many cases, and that is not how judges always look at the Constitution, and it is not how the Constitution actually functions in the court room, or even in the halls of Congress.”

The faculty in the Department of History and Government decide on a theme and guest speaker based on relevant issues for each Constitution Day, Janda said. This year the decision to focus on Supreme Court cases in Oklahoma was a way to remind attendees that the Constitution is a living document.

“Students and citizens in general tend to think of the Constitution as this abstract piece of paper,” Janda said, “and ‘they wrote it a long time ago, and it is nice, but it doesn’t really affect me day to day,’ so we always try to make the connection that even if you don’t know about it, the courts are always interpreting issues that affect free speech, privacy, access to health care.”

In addition, Henderson said the Constitution is such an effective document because it is a living and ever changing document.

“I do think the framers had wonderful ideas and wrote a great document,” Henderson said, “but really the magic is what each generation has done to improve the document with things that needed to happen. That is what has allowed it to keep functioning well year after year and decade after decade and now century after century.”

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