The University where I work has some annual events that function like holidays – special and exciting. One of my favorites is Constitution Day, celebrated at or near the anniversary of it’s adoption. Surely the United States Constitution is cause for celebration! Last year’s Constitution Day speaker was so compelling that I wrote about him (and his book) THIS year. See my blog entry dated September 23, 2016.
This year’s speaker was Akhil Reed Amar, Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale. Amar ‘s enthusiasm for the Constitution is evident in his manner. He didn’t just wander away from the podium, but also stepped down from the stage to be closer to the audience. I watched him by video feed (the auditorium was full), but didn’t feel like I missed out.
Amar discussed the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, with emphasis on the fact that the whole document was printed and available for debate. He identifies the ratification as a turning point in history, the beginning of our “modern” world and the birth of contemporary democracy. Consider what came before – hereditary monarchies, city states…
The adoption of the Constitution was no sure thing, but supporters and their opposition (the anti-federalists) remained on civil terms throughout the process. They did not threaten to disengage or take to the streets. The ten-amendment Bill of Rights was enacted immediately after ratification to deal with unresolved issues.
In 2016, roughly half the world’s people live under some variation of our Constitutional government system. It’s not perfect, but it can and does improve over time.
Amar’s hero among our presidents is Abraham Lincoln, for maintaining the union.
I won’t go into details about Amar’s analysis of this year’s election. He said that our significant political divisions are as follows:
- North vs South
- Coasts vs center
- Cities vs rural areas
Amar’s comments about the battles to restrict the spread of slavery (especially Kansas) made me curious about the post Civil War era. He described the Electoral College as a mechanism to restrict the spread of slavery, but didn’t have time to elaborate.
Amar feels that the future belongs to the most “globalized” countries and considers that our diversity puts us out in front.
Amar’s lecture was protested by a quiet group, probably not students. I was handed a flier, which said Amar was going to stump for Hilary Clinton (he didn’t), and implicitly accused the University of bias in it’s choice of speakers. There was an invitation to meet the group at a local diner for breakfast. Sometimes I wish I had the personality to take advantage of that type of opportunity!