Revisiting the Constitution

09-15-2011

Our observation of Constitution Day this year comes on Friday, September 16, on the heels of an especially significant observance––the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This still-painful memory comes as we enter another contentious political season and the nation remains in the grip of economic torpor and persistent high joblessness within a roiling world economy.

The question of whether we as a people or a nation have been moved to change by these events has been among the most-discussed subjects in the news media of late. We all were moved personally by 9/11, of course, but the aggregate impact of that and the subsequent challenges on our national character is less clear. Intertwined economic turmoil, technological disruption, and a growing sense of insecurity make effect difficult to separate from cause.

Of appropriate concern to us this week is whether we have trod on constitutional liberties in the rush to assure our physical and economic security over the last 10 years. When one hears calls for special scrutiny of those associated by religion or ethnicity to those behind the 9/11 attacks, one must be concerned about the eagerness of some to selectively restrict constitutional freedoms of others.

It is at times of stress in the civic fabric that the Constitution’s integrity must be most jealously protected––and clearly there are a variety of opinions about what that means.

So I want to draw your attention to activities associated with Constitution Day on campus to help us reflect on questions that are so fundamental to our identity as Americans. University of Austin government professor Jeffrey K. Tulis will lecture on “Constitutional Decay and the Politics of Deference” at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 22, at the Kellogg Center Auditorium. His appearance is sponsored by James Madison College and the Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy in the Department of Political Science.

I encourage you to go to our Constitution Day website to see the full schedule of events for the week, including a carillon concert Friday, September 16, part of the annual Bells Across America event. Professor Emeritus William McHarris will play a selection of patriotic music at 4 p.m., and I hope you can be there to enjoy it.

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