CLEVELAND, Miss. — Constitution Week is an American observance to commemorate the 1787 adoption of the United States Constitution. The observance runs annually from September 17 to September 23. Delta State University began observances Thursday, September 14 with a lecture by Professor of Political Science Emeritus Dr. Garry Jennings.
Riley Hardin, senior secretary for Social Sciences said, “We do this lecture every year. It is hosted by the Madison Center and the Division of Social Sciences and History in celebration of Constitution Day, which is the day that the Constitution was ratified by the 13 colonies. We are really excited to have Dr. Jennings back to talk about the 14th amendment and what makes people citizens.”
The program began with remarks from Dr. Charles Westmoreland, Chair of the Division of Social Sciences and History. He acknowledged the nature of Constitution Week, then dedicated the event to the memory of DSU history professor Dr. Ethan Schmidt, who fatally fell victim to gun violence in 2015. Westmoreland then introduced DSU President Dr. Dan Ennis, who welcomed the attendees and Dr. Jennings back to campus.
Dr. Andrew Wegmann, Director of the Madison Center, then took to the podium to introduce the speaker. He said, “Dr. Jennings was the heart of political science here for a quarter of a century. He founded the Madison Center, and he organized this lecture series for 25 years. He brought in Noam Chomsky, Antonin Scalia, and we are just trying to live up to the standard he set.”
Jennings presented a thorough lecture about the evolution of the idea of citizenship in the United States, from the founding of the country to the current day, focusing on the 14th amendment and its interpretations over the years. He spoke to the thought processes and writings of the men who drafted it, and subsequent interpretations and applications by the Supreme Court since its adoption.
Following his presentation, Jennings said, “There are multiple levels for this moment. I do think that Chuck Westmoreland’s comment about Ethan Schmidt was appropriate, and I was happy to hear him say that. He was a beloved faculty member and a wonderful person. I am so happy that the president came and talked, and it is excellent to be here again. This is the place where I spent 25 years working with students and enjoying that work and finding ways of opening up the world to them.”
Constitution Week events continued September 18, with the annual reading of the Constitution in front of the Union. This was a come and go type of event where volunteers read passages of the Constitution. Several students and DSU President Dr. Dan Ennis participated.
Hardin said, “we started with the Declaration of Independence and then read through the Constitution with all amendments. We had a lot of students participate, including some international students.”
For more information about the Madison Center, visit their website at https://www.deltastate.edu/artsandsciences/social-sciences-and-history/madison-center/.