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A special commemoration of the signing of the U.S. Constitution was held September 16 for students, faculty and staff on campus. September 17, the date the document was signed in 1787, has been officially designated Constitution Day by federal legislation signed into law in December 2004. It was observed nationwide for the first time this year.
The event was organized by Student Body President Jeremy Foskitt and Associate Professor of History John Krueckeberg. Foskitt welcomed attendees and gave background on the federal legislation that created Constitution Day. “The law mandates that every academic institution in the nation that receives federal funding hold an educational program on or around September 17 of every year to educate the nation’s youth on the rights, responsibilities and practices of the United States government. Constitution Day was designed to promote the ideals of freedom and civic responsibility of students across the country,” he said.
Assistant Professor of History Marcia Schmidt Blaine spoke on “The Personalities and Politics in the Making of the Constitution,” describing the diverse and conflicting politics, ideas and personalities of key representatives to the Constitutional Convention, and how they affected the framing of the Constitution.
Peng-Khuan Chong, associate professor of social science, spoke on “The Constitution in International Context.” Chong participated in the development and writing of the Malaysian constitution. “We were in awe of the United States Constitution,” he says. “It was a world-changing document that protected the rights of individuals and limited the powers of government.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Robert Egbert addressed “Civil Liberties and the U.S. Constitution,” saying, “The first job of government is to be strong enough to rule the people. The second is to be able to rule itself. … Some states refused to ratify the Constitution without a Bill of Rights to protect them from the federal government.”
The program was followed by a session for questions and answers. —Kathy Henderson