Florida Southern College celebrated Constitution Day with an array of esteemed guest speakers on Friday on Mr. George’s Green.
Sep 20, 2021
Current Supreme Court of Florida Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, of Lakeland, Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani), Florida Rep. Scott Franklin (), retired Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice and Eminent Professor of Law and Letters of the Justice Teaching Center for Civic Learning, R. Fred Lewis, and Florida Southern College President Anne B. Kerr all spoke at the gathering.
The event was put on by the Florida Southern College Department of Political Sciences and Associated Professor of Political Science Dr. Bruce Anderson, who is also the Dr. Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay Jr. Chair in American History, Government and Civics.
Dr. Kerr began the proceedings by welcoming the nearly 100 guests, faculty, staff and students in attendance.
“I hope you can depart with an increased knowledge of the United States Constitution,” Kerr concluded after thanking the students and Dr. Bruce Anderson for bringing the event to campus.
Franklin, who is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 15th congressional district, was next to take the stage. The former Navy pilot said he keeps a copy of The Constitution in his wallet to remind him of his oath to uphold it.
“The U.S. Constitution is not only my job description, but it reminds me every day of who I work for,” Franklin said. “I’m excited to be a part of this.”
After a brief intermission, Chief Justice Canady then took the podium. Canady, who still has a house in Lakeland, spoke for about 15 minutes about the rule of law and equal justice, protections that the Constitution provides all U.S. citizens.
“I am oath-bound to the Constitution,” Canady said as a soft rain fell. “I am doubly so as a lawyer and a member of the Supreme Court. That makes me partisan to the Constitution. … It is a wonderful bulwark against anarchy and arbitrary power.”
Eskamani became the first Iranian American to be elected to the Florida Legislature, winning her seat in 2018. She spoke briefly about her parents’ separate immigration to the United States before meeting at work, where they went on to build their lives and have a family.
“It’s up to us to uphold the values that our families were pursuing,” Eskamani said.
She then challenged students to find an opportunity to call people in before calling them out in a plea for everyone to come together to find a common ground when discussing their differences. This point was echoed by the final speaker of the day, former Chief Justice Lewis.
Lewis, a 1969 graduate of Florida Southern College, asked each person in attendance to try and answer two questions.
“Are we doing everything we can to fulfill the promises of the Constitution? And are we thankful for each day for the rights that we’ve been blessed with?”
Lewis’ speech was centered around the challenges of finding the common ground that Eskamani spoke of, saying that the riots of Jan. 6 were a sad day for him to witness.
“My message is for people to come together and protect the Constitution,” he said. “(My fear) is that the division within us won’t stand up against the attacks from around us.”
Constitution Day, also known as Citizenship Day, was first celebrated on Sept. 17, 2005. This national day is observed to honor the 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention who signed the United States Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.
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