By Clare Myers
This past Sunday, over a hundred people gathered in the upstairs Haggar dining room to celebrate Consitituion Day with beer, barbecue and a patriotic sing-a -long.
It is not widely advertised among most of the student population at the University of Dallas, but to those in the know, Constitution Day is a beloved tradition.
“It’s the event of the year,” said Dr. Richard Dougherty, welcoming the crowd.
Dougherty, an associate politics professor, organizes the yearly event.
As is custom, the night began with the pledge of allegiance, the singing of “God Bless America”, all four verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a prayer. Students, alumni, faculty, staff and families enjoyed a barbecue dinner while listening to an address from Dr. Christopher Wolfe, the latest addition to the politics department.
In his lecture, titled “The Constitution and the constitution,” Wolfe distinguished between “the Constitution” – that is, the 1789 document – and “the constitution,” or the broader composition and character of the country.
“The constitution of the U.S., small ‘c,’ it turns out, is much broader than the American Constitution, large ‘c,’” Wolfe said.
Wolfe discussed the social and cultural mores of the nation as described by Alexis de Tocqueville in his 19th-century travels to America. He argued that these formed the foundation and the essential preconditions of liberty.
Wolfe said that today’s culture war is leaving the country half red and half blue, a state of division that cannot exist indefinitely. He called for a middle ground between the extremes for a solution to the problem.
“The best option, as far as public policy goes, would be what I call ‘moderate moralism,’ which recognizes the importance of cultural norms and the preservation of healthy modern constitutionalism, and a role for law in supporting that, but that also recognizes the sharp limits in what law or government can do,” he said.
He proposed a combination of education and faith as the means of safeguarding the nation’s constitution.
“The University of Dallas is an outstanding representative of what our forebearers had in mind,” he said.
Wolfe’s address was well received, as was the pun he made that drew laughs and groans at the close of the speech.
“I hope some of you are not feeling unsettled,” Wolfe said.“Because of all the large ‘c’s’ and small ‘c’s’ I’ve been throwing at you tonight, I’m afraid that some of you may be feeling seasick.”
After raising a glass to both the Constitution and the constitution, Wolfe joined the rest of the crowd in singing a number of patriotic songs.
Junior Anne Johnson said the address was a hopeful take on a familiar theme.
“I was really impressed by Dr. Wolfe’s speech, not just because it was really interesting, but because it was optimistic,” she said. “He really made it seem like we really can change the future.”
Johnson expressed surprise that more students did not attend the celebration. Though Constitution Day has been an annual tradition at UD for 40 years, it did not draw large numbers of students from outside the politics department, which sponsors the event. For those in attendance, however, it was an enjoyable night.
“I think it’s a grand tradition,” junior Patricia Bernardo said.