This Sunday, Sept. 16, students, staff and alumni gathered to celebrate the University of Dallas’ 41st celebration of Constitution Day.
This UD tradition began with dinner and a sobering lecture about dangerous trends in American political thought by politics professor Dr. Tiffany Miller and ended on a merry note with patriotic songs.
This annual celebration is sponsored by the Politics Department and honors the close of the Constitutional Convention on Sept. 17, 1787.
Chair of the Politics Department Richard Dougherty remarked that the primary reasons for beginning the Constitution Day celebration at UD were to both honor the Constitution and to “sing the patriotic songs that marked particular moments in American history.”
Miller’s lecture was entitled, “Is the United States Still a Liberal Democracy?” Miller began her lecture by reflecting on the longevity of the 231-year-old United States Constitution, the oldest written constitution in the world.
Miller doubted that our country’s commitment to liberalism remains as strong as at the Constitutions’ founding. She argued that groups at universities across the United States that consider themselves “social justice movements” are decisively illiberal.
Miller defined the core value underlying classical liberalism:
“[It’s the] idea that human beings, as human beings, are entitled to exercise a host of negative rights or freedoms,” Miller said.
In contrast, Miller argued that modern liberals grant rights based upon the group identity of a person rather than on on the individual’s inherent dignity as a person.
The theoretical foundations of modern liberalism that are currently manifesting themselves on college campuses can be traced back to progressive political thought found in universities that influenced the administrations of 20th century presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, according to Miller.
This modern liberalism, Miller argued, is a radical break from what the framers of the Constitution considered liberalism to be and is a cause for concern.
Miller concluded her lecture by reflecting on a quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a famed prisoner during Stalin’s rule, in which Solzhenitsyn attempted to explain why the Russian people submitted to the Bolshevik revolution.
“We didn’t love freedom enough … And even more — we had no awareness of the real situation,” Miller quoted.
Miller closed by praying that the American people do not imitate the mistakes of the Russian people at the time of the Russian Revolution.
While the address may have been sobering, hope and merriment were found by singing those patriotic hymns that reflect our history.
Dougherty commented on the relationship between the South’s “Dixie” and the North’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
These songs “represent a cross section of American views,” Dougherty said. “[They are] expressions of patriotism and honor.”
“These are our songs, the songs of American history and American politics,” Dougherty added.
For Dougherty, this event offers us a “true education” which “requires us to know the past.” From this knowledge, we can “sift through the good and the bad, the noble and ignoble,” elements of our history.
Both Miller’s lecture and the hymns offered the participants the opportunity to do just that: to reflect upon and judge both the praiseworthy and the painful moments of American history.