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Ohio University Southern celebrates Constitution Day

IRONTON — A college community took a few minutes out of its busy day to reflect on a document that celebrated its 222nd birthday on Thursday.

Ohio University Southern invited students, faculty and members of the Lawrence County community to participate in a panel discussion commemorating the U.S. Constitution which was completed on Sept. 17, 1787.

The Constitution Day panel included Debra Marinski, OUS assistant professor of history and the Honorable Judge Charles Cooper of Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas. Mike Caldwell, publisher of The Tribune moderated. The event was organized by Robert Pleasant, director of student services at OUS and was held in the Rotunda.

Both panelists, who were flanked by framed copies of the Constitution behind them, took time to tell the more than 50 in attendance the importance of the document and how it affects every one, every day even more than two centuries later.

“The Constitution is the most important document in our history,” said Marinski, when explaining how it impacts every single person in the United States and its history of coming out of the American Revolution.

Cooper started off by telling how important the Constitution is in his profession.

“The Constitution is a daily event down at the courthouse,” Cooper said. “It outranks all other laws and is flexible enough even for today.”

Cooper also used a quote by William Pitt the Elder — considered to be the greatest British statesman of the 18 century — in bringing home a point of how the Constitution and its amendments are documents for all the people, both evenly and equally.

“The storm may enter, the rain may enter, but the King of England cannot enter! All his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!”

He also gave an example of how individuals use the Constitution and do not even know they are using it.

Cooper cited the recent involvement of a group of Rome Township citizens in putting pressure on Lawrence County Commissioners and the Lawrence County Engineers office to mill and resurface a section of roadway paved in materials residents thought was inadequate.

Marinski agreed, saying that the value of the Constitution comes from being “ambiguous” and that it is “meant for interpretation.”

Both also listed their personal top three amendments that they felt were the most important to them personally. Marinski named the 13th Amendment (abolition of slavery); 14th Amendment (civil rights) and 15th Amendment (black suffrage) as the three most important to her.

Cooper agreed with Marinski on her choices and added the Fourth Amendment (search and arrest warrants) saying “it is a great example of how the document can be broad enough even today” and the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion and the press) by saying “it has meat to it.”

Both Marinski and Cooper challenged the lunch-time gathering to take time to read the Constitution from start to finish. Everyone in attendance was able to receive a free pocket-sized copy of the Constitution and its Amendments.

“Read it and ask questions and you will get answers,” Marinski said.

The final portion of the panel discussion allowed attendees to ask questions of the panel concerning the document. Questions ranged from health care to Miranda rights for minors to campaign contributions to judicial candidates to freedom of the press.

Constitution Day (or Citizenship Day) is an American federal observance that recognizes the ratification of the Constitution and those who have become citizens of the United States. The law establishing the holiday was created in 2004 with the passage of an amendment by U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

In addition, the act mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on Sept. 17.