Constitution Day annually commemorates the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787. This year Saint Peter’s honored the day with two events hosted by the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership.
On September 16, the Guarini Institute held a We the People Poetry Slam. Poets, orators and songwriters were invited to share their thoughts on what the first three words of the Constitution (We the People) means to them.
“When the Constitution was originally written, the phrase ‘We the People’ only referred to free white men,” explained Ginger Gold Schnitzer, executive director of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership. “Over time the phrase has evolved to include women and people of color. As our nation continues in a never ending struggle to be its best self, we can almost guarantee that ‘We the People’ will continue to mean different things to future generations.”
The next Constitution Day event continued to explore how the interpretation of the Constitution changes over the years.
On September 19 New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin came to the Saint Peter’s campus to provide a Constitution Day keynote address.
According to Platkin, he believed that the Constitution must be viewed as a living document because when the Constitution was written there were so many things that the forefathers of the United States could not have predicted such as the internet, social media, ghost guns and more.
During the keynote, Platkin shared his priorities in the office as well as the details of his path to a career in public service. He also called on the students at the event to consider public service as a career path, not only because it is rewarding, but because it is important to the future of our country.
“If you follow your passions and pursue important causes that are meaningful to you, I know that things will work out,” said Platkin. “I say this because we need you as we face a fundamental crisis in confidence in our government and confidence in the very document that we came together to recognize and celebrate. Now more than ever we need a new generation.”
Saint Peter’s President Eugene Cornacchia was excited to see so many members of the University community participating in the event, but he also challenged the attendees.
“I want you all to be more than spectators in our democracy,” said Dr. Cornacchia. “ In the Jesuit tradition of ‘men and women for others’ it is incumbent upon each of us to share our gifts, pursue justice and have concern for the poor and marginalized. By voting, listening, learning, advocating and engaging in civic life we have the power to make sure America is all that the Constitution has promised.”