Students, staff and faculty at Tusculum College were treated to the opportunity to learn more about the United States Constitution on Wednesday at a faculty panel discussion. The event, “You the People: a Town Hall Forum on the U.S. Constitution,” was hosted by the Center for Civic Advancement.
Dr. Troy Goodale, assistant professor of political science, opened the discussion with comments and reflection on Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who not only interpreted the Constitution through his rulings in his 24 years as Supreme Court Justice, but also won 14 of the 19 cases he argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the government. In addition, Marshall represented and won more cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other American.
Marshall wrote about the U.S. Constitution in his essay, “The Evolving Constitution.” Goodale told the group that through this essay, Marshall discussed his views on the document and suggested that bicentennial celebrations of the U.S. Constitution should be focused on “struggles throughout the life of the document rather than the miracle of its birth.”
Following Goodale’s comments, he along with panelists, Dr. Joel Van Amberg, assistant professor of history, and Dr. David Key, assistant professor of history, answered questions from students, faculty and staff at the College.
Topics of discussion focused on current issues such as the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage and what the Constitution provides citizens in terms of basic rights and freedoms.
The group discussed the enactment and eventual repeal of Prohibition through the 18th and 21st amendments, as well as the increase in rights provided by the 14th, 15th and 19th amendments dedicated to voting rights. With each progressive amendment, voting rights were expanded reducing the age requirement, eliminating poll taxes and eventually including black men and women.
Students questioned the relevancy of some of the original wording of the document which they suggested had little to do with today’s world, such as forbidding the government from housing soldiers in personal homes.
However, according to Key, these first few items are a “blueprint” to warn us of the rise of despotism and serve as an alert for those of us today, based on the experiences of those who wrote the document.
The panel also discussed the basic rights outlined in the Constitution and its amendments and had available voter registration forms for anyone who wished to register to vote.