September 17, 2013
Constitution Day at Cornish
: Lauren Basson. Photo by Mark Bocek.
: Group 3: Zachary Davis, Rose Burt, Maureen Webb and Shelby Hayes. Photo by Mark Bocek.
: Group 1: Rachel Sandoffsky, Alex Wallace, Shohei Ogami and Kaire Shiowaki. Photo by Mark Bocek.
: Group 2: Sam Maxwell, Gretchen Conrad, Sierra Clarke and Crysta Oslin. Photo by Mark Bocek.
: Group 4: Spencer Shores, Navarre Herrera, Taurean Johnson and Mariah Nystrom. Photo by Mark Bocek.
: Banned and suppressed books display. Photo by Mark Bocek.
: Cornish Citizen Artist Initiative board, showing MLK "I Have a Dream" display. Photo by Mark Bocek.
Remembering “I Have a Dream,” charting banned books, registering new voters, holding class on the Bill of Rights, Cornish marks Constitution Day.
Two hundred and twenty-six years ago today, September 17, the representatives of each of the states of America, hoping to gather themselves into a single political entity, put their signatures to a sheet of parchment. The Constitution was for its time the most liberal — even radical — of documents. In a world of kings and emperors, the new country would be ruled by the people through their elected representatives. With the memory fresh of their forbearers fleeing religious persecution in Europe and of the devastating religious wars carried out for over a century, their land would erect a barrier between church and state. Remembering the political oppression of the Old World, the United States of America would guarantee the freedoms of speech and of assembly and of the press. The failures of this new document were glaring with regard to slavery and the rights of minorities and women, and can’t be ignored, but its successes were truly monumental, even earth-shaking.
Today, Constitution Day, is the Cornish community’s turn to remember. At the College, the successes of our country’s guiding document are studied along with displays reminding us that the work to perfect the nation is ongoing. Students, faculty and staff are taking part in the Constitution Center’s call to recognize “a time for us to continue [the signers’] legacy and develop habits of citizenship in a new generation of Americans.” Along the corridor on the MCC’s second floor are a board dedicated to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a display of banned or threatened books.
King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is significant on this day because of its challenge to the country to live up to the ideals of the ideas of its founders. “When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”
Likewise the effort to ban or suppress books demands every citizen’s attention on Constitution Day. In a land where the freedom of speech is hallowed, it may shock some to realize how often the threat to this right arises. The display case on the 2nd floor prepared by the library staff is filled with books whose presence on a list of threatened words will surprise and shock.
In Lauren Basson’s Political Issues and Identities class, the Constitution is being studied from a very different angle. Professor Basson, a graduate of Brown with a doctorate from the UW, challenged her class to write their own bill of rights to enshrine the aspirations of their chosen group, and to follow that up with a “bill of responsibilities.” The first order of business was to define a citizenry to which they felt they belonged. The class voted to define themselves as “Creatives.”
Splitting into four groups, the students brainstormed a list of the rights and responsibilities of Creatives at Cornish. Among the concerns were free expression and intellectual property. A sample of the dilemmas the students mulled was the ethical problem of the graffiti artist as opposed to the rights of the designer of the building used as a canvas. Two artists: whose rights should prevail? Group 4 — Spencer Shores, Navarre Herrera, Taurean Johnson and Mariah Nystrom — grappled with this brain squeezer.
The results of the class’ deliberations will be the subject of a visual presentation on the Cornish Citizen Artist Initiative board in coming days.
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