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Saint Mary’s celebrates Constitution Day

| Wednesday, September 17, 2014


SMC Constitution DayCaitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Saint Mary’s commemorated Constitution Day on Wednesday with a panel to examine different perspectives and experiences in regards to the United States Constitution. The panelists, who each addressed varying opinions of the Constitution, included chair and associate professor of political science Marc Belanger, senior and communication studies major Julia Dunford and the deputy chief of staff to South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, Brian Pawlowski.

Constitution Day was created in 2004 by an act of Congress to commemorate the completion of the Constitution 227 years ago in 1787, said associate professor of communication studies and event coordinator Michael Kramer.

This year’s theme, “Unique Ideas, Unique Experiences,” was inspired in part by a comment from Belanger, said Kramer. Belanger pointed out the uniqueness of the United States Constitution in comparison to the systems of other nations, which makes the document worth our exploration and analysis.

Kramer said that Belanger’s idea relates to the idea that people in the United States have their own unique experiences engaging with the constitution.

“The Constitution is unique and the ways in which we encounter it are unique,” Kramer said.

Kramer said this year’s panel was chosen to provide three unique experiences and perspectives on the Constitution in line with this idea of considering the document.

“Not all democracies are the same,” Belanger said. “In fact, the United States is pretty unique in the way its democracy operates. If you look at the Constitution through a comparative politics lens, you’ll see that the United States has the oldest written constitution. However, not all constitutions are written documents.

“The Constitution is unique because it is relatively short and focuses on government mechanisms, not specifics.”

Dunford, who spent the summer interning at the South Bend mayor’s office, said that even though she spent a large amount of time in close proximity to politics, she has not dealt with or thought about the Constitution since my high school exams.

The subject brought her back to eighth grade, when her teacher gave a speech on the magic behind the Constitution, Dunford said. Her teacher explained the importance of the Constitution as the framework that allowed us to make changes and gave us a government that was sustainable.

“Saint Mary’s teaches us how to discuss, research, and most importantly, how to find our voice, use it and use it often,” Dunford said.

Ultimately, Dunford said she realized how the Constitution has affected her every day life.

“It’s the reason I have a right and an obligation to speak,” she said.

Pawlowski agreed with Dunford’s view of the Constitution’s constructive power in the United States.

“Whether you’re on a local level here, whether you’re on a student governing council, whether you’re on a state legislature board — it’s really important that you think through how you view the document,” Pawlowski said.

“There will always be debates. We should think about what we believe or support and why.”



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