Western Courier

Garden Lounges hosts Constitution Day

Kathy Hougland

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The theme of “Presidential Power and the Constitution” will be on display today, as Constitution Day is commemorated at Western Illinois University in the Garden Lounge of Malpass Library from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 Director of the Centennial Honors College Richard Hardy shared some information about Constitution Day and why it is celebrated.

 “Back in 2004, as I recall, a U.S. Senator by the name of Robert Byrd of West Virginia decided that we needed to learn more about the Constitution,” Hardy said. “He found that people were painfully ignorant about the document, so what he did was he managed to get an amendment into an appropriations bill, a very important bill for the federal government to operate on, and he added an amendment at the 11th hour — that means at the last minute.”

 Hardy then explained what the significance of that bill meant for public schools across the nation.

 “It requires all institutions of education, could be grade schools through colleges and universities, any educational institution that takes any dime, even a penny from the federal government, must celebrate the Constitution on or within one week of its birth,” Hardy said.

 “Now, the Constitution went into effect on Sept. 17, 1787, and so that’s the date that is part of our history,” Hardy said. “And so while every institution has to celebrate it in some form, or by some kind of public education or lose federal funding, we have to do it here or we’ll lose federal funding.”

 Hardy further elaborated on how Western does its part in fulfilling this requirement, since there are no specific guidelines on how it has to be done.

 When he became the department chairman of political science in 2006, he was asked by the provost, at that time, to do something to help put on an event for Constitution Day.

 “I came up with the idea that we’d have a panel discussion on some topic and we change the topics every year, so we get a variety of subjects covered,” said Hardy.

 Not only did Hardy get that portion of the event started, he also got the Honors students involved through making posters for the topics covered on Constitution Day. Western provides the supplies the students need to create these posters, and a bunch of them have also used PowerPoint Presentations.

 The posters have been about the topics of the event, but in the past years the projects have focused on Supreme Court justices and influential Supreme Court cases.

 Although there will be posters at the event, three are dates in U.S. Constitutional history, provided by an informational packet from Hardy, for visitors to read over to help keep track of the timeline.

 For example, on April 16, 1787, James Madison wrote a letter to George Washington that summarized the “Virginia Plan,” which is the template of the U.S. Constitution. On May 29, 1787, Edmund Randolph introduced the “Virginia Plan,” that being large-state plan. And on June 15, 1787, William Patterson offered the “New Jersey Plan,” also known as the
small-state plan.

 Then on July 16 of that same year, the Constitutional Convention approved the “Great Compromise” presented by Roger Sherman. The Convention officially adjourned on Sept. 17, 1787, following the approval of the new Constitution and the sending of it to the Continental Congress.

 Hardy recommends for everyone to attend the Constitution Day program and even take the time to read to read the Constitution outside of the event itself. It is a common misconception that the Constitution is a big book. However, Dr. Hardy provided a different way to perceive this document.

 “I know a lot of people say they don’t have time to read it,” Hardy said. “Well, let me give you this analogy: if you would take the ‘Chicago Tribune’ sports section today, and if you read all of that, you’ll have read more words than are in
the United State Constitution.”

 To learn more about the Constitution, everybody is welcome to go celebrate Constitution Day and not only be shown informational posters, but also view a panel discussion speaking on historical and contemporary instances of the Constitution enabling and limiting presidential power.

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Garden Lounges hosts Constitution Day