Constitution week encourages understanding


By Nicholas Sauma, Reporter

The Department of Political Science hosted two events, in recognition of Constitution week, a livecast panel on the Emancipation Proclamation on Monday, Sept. 17 and a Thursday, Sept. 20 lecture by Notre Dame professor Peri Arnold on the 1912 presidential election.

“Constitution week was started by late Senator Robert Byrd (WV) who got language written into law that requires all education institutions that receive federal funding to do some educational event or programming,” Carson Holloway, assistant professor of political science, said. 

Holloway feels it’s important that a university provide the opportunity for students and faculty to be exposed to study of the Constitution.

Mark Scherer, associate professor of history,  moderated Monday’s event on the Emancipation Proclamation.  The event covered the historical significance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln, and  Scherer helped frame the Constitutional issues after.  

“I like to say that slavery was ‘accommodated’ by the Constitution at this time. Lincoln’s Presidency really challenged these clauses where it was,” Scherer said. “In fact, many scholars did argue that what Lincoln did was unconstitutional, outside of the power of the executive branch.”

Sept. 22nd marked the 150th anniversary of the document that would be the starting point of all civil rights movements to come.  The panelists analyzed the original purpose of the document was perhaps more military than moral.  Lincoln was looking to maintain the Union, and when compromise failed, he turned to taking the South’s property from them.  Lincoln’s personal views were against slavery, but it was not a popular position at the time, and the struggles of the Civil War and moral war fought in issuing that Proclamation may well be “the single most important event of the 19th Century,” Scherer said.

The panelists and Scherer agreed that Lincoln’s Presidency was a profound challenge to the young Constitution.  His decisions ultimately led to the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, and set in motion the African American struggles for rights, freedom and equality onward to today.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Studying and understanding it is an important part of being a citizen.  UNO’s Constitution week is free, highly accessible and educational for anyone interested in learning more about the Constitution. In the meantime, Scherer and Holloway are excellent sources of information here at UNO, as well as their colleagues in the History and Political Science departments.