Beyond campus politics: CMU celebrates Constitution

Sabrina Porter Sep 17, 2007

Today, the original Bill of Rights and a Court of Appeals judge, Thomas Hardiman, arrived on campus in honor of Carnegie Mellon’s third annual Constitution Day celebration. The keynote speaker, Bill of Rights display, and an array of other educational materials will be available in the Posner Center, home to the Tepper School of Business, for the university community to enjoy.

“This year we are fortunate to have a U.S. Judge from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Thomas Hardiman, participating in our celebration,” said Holly Hippensteel, director of the Student Life Office.

“Judge Hardiman will lead a discussion about the Constitution today and the nature of the constitution as a ‘living document.’ ”
Hardiman was recommended as a possible keynote speaker by a member of the Carnegie Mellon faculty.

He has experience in the Supreme Court, appeals circuit, and tax court, in addition to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pittsburgh, Inc. His expertise in the area of constitutional law and in its daily implications is well known and respected.

Hardiman will be speaking at the Posner Center at 5:30 p.m.

An original copy of the Bill of Rights, one of only four in the nation, is also available for viewing at the Posner Center.

Thomas Jefferson gave two copies of the document to each governor of all fourteen states when it was written in 1792. Of these copies, only four remain. Carnegie Mellon’s original edition, a part of the Posner collection, is currently on permanent loan to the university from the Posner family.

The Posner collection was established in 1978 by Henry Posner and his wife, Ida. The Bill of Rights is one of the most well-known documents in the collection, which also includes a facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible and important Einstein offprints.

For Posner, the primary value of his collection was having carefully built a library for his family an archive that represented the best in ideas, sciences and the arts.

The Bill of Rights, although only on display until 4 p.m. tomorrow, is available to the university community year-round in digital form at (http://posner.library.cmu.edu/Posner).

“I think it’s great that we have such an original and important document in our possession,” said Joey Cordes, a sophomore design major.

“It says a lot for our school that we have the Bill of Rights to display and fully commemorate a really important day.”

For many, Constitution Day is a new concept.

“I didn’t even know there was a Constitution Day,” said Lydia Remington, a sophomore public policy and management major. “Not that it isn’t important, but I didn’t think we actually celebrated the Constitution at a certain time every year.”

Remington brought up the issue of publicity at the campus level. “I feel like I and so many other people didn't really know anything about it,” Remington said. ”Everyone on campus should know that they can just walk into Posner and see an original copy of the Bill of Rights or hear a Supreme Court judge talk.”

Constitution Day has existed nationally since 1997. Universities have been required by law to commemorate the day since 2005.

Louise Leigh, an outreach director for the Bicentennial Commission in California, founded the day after realizing that most schoolchildren nationwide knew little about the Constitution.

She took her cause to the federal government and ultimately convinced President Bush to sign a public law in 2005 requiring educational institutions nationwide to recognize and celebrate this day.

This year, Carnegie Mellon has taken the celebration day to a new level.

“This year’s focus on the living, evolving nature of the document and its continued relevance is particularly important,” said Hippensteel.

“It is easy to overlook the role that the Constitution has in our daily lives, but with minimal reflection one can identify topics that foot directly to the concepts presented in this document and its amendments.”

Each year, the university hosts a keynote speaker, discussion, and reception, as well as a display of the Bill of Rights and materials related to the constitution.

This year’s celebration at the Posner Center will feature pocket-sized copies of the Constitution for guests to take and position papers to read on constitutional issues, such as the definition of marriage.

Students should be sure to remain aware of the importance of this day, Hippensteel said.

“All people, most especially people who profess to be educated, should seek to understand and appreciate the push-and-pull relationship between freedoms and responsibilities that the Constitution so artfully articulates,” she said.