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Panel discusses U.S. Constitution

Caitlin Housley | Friday, September 18, 2009

Saint Mary’s celebrated Constitution Day with “The Constitution Today – Three Perspectives,” a panel designed to emphasize the importance of the document.

Panelists spoke on aspects of the Constitution that were most relevant to both their personal and work lives. Views on journalism, law and academia were combined to stress the universality of the document in today’s society.

Panelists included Margaret Fosmoe, a Notre Dame graduate and reporter for the South Bend Tribune, Gerald F. Lutkus, a First-Amendment attorney, and Professor Michael Kramer of Communication Studies, Dance and Theatre at Saint Mary’s.

Fosmoe admitted she has taken the Constitution for granted in the past.

But when reflecting on the issue as a panel member, she said she began to realize the importance of the document, especially regarding the freedoms it guaranteed the press.

Fosmoe said journalists face dangers when reporting on overseas stories.

Statistically, 42 media representatives have been killed on the job this year, and the United States ranked 36th on a list of countries with the most press freedom.

“No one – including Americans – should take freedom of the press for granted, even if it is guaranteed in the Constitution,” Fosmoe said.

Lutkus said the Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan was a landmark case that determined a universal definition of libel regarding public officials.

But Lutkus said a new problem is arising in today’s society: the Internet, calling it the “New Frontier.”

Kramer then emphasized the fact that the Constitution is still relevant today.

He referenced President Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech, noting that Lincoln related to the Constitution – almost 100 years after the Constitution was written – to prove the accuracy of his arguments, proving that the document still had merit a century after it was written.

“We must always have faith in the Constitution,” Kramer said.

Both Lutkus and Kramer stressed there are many more freedoms guaranteed to the people of the United States in the document in addition to those guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“There are 26 more fabulous ones,” Lutkus said. “Please read them.”