Op-Ed

Join UK celebration of Constitution, civic engagement

Taban Flores is a freshman at the University of Kentucky.
Taban Flores is a freshman at the University of Kentucky.

As the founding fathers of pop once said: You gotta fight for your right to party.

As we emerge out of the clouds of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we are now lunging forward to the 224th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

That means we're gearing up for Constitution Day at the University of Kentucky, thanks to a congressional mandate: Any federally funded institution must provide civic education on Sept. 17 unless it falls on holiday or weekend, as it does this year.

We the people, plus the spirit of Kentucky statesman Henry Clay, are going to gather from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday on the north lawn of the Main Building to celebrate UK's seventh annual commemoration of the national holiday.

The goals of this gathering are to inform good citizens about the U.S. Constitution, allow schoolchildren to educate us about the legislative process and have the time of our lives in the pursuit of happiness.

The founding fathers created a document with seven articles: OK, now name me one. We're at war, so what can a president do or not do? Hint: Read Article II. You'll get the idea.

Last year, a freshman Discovery Seminar Program class, like the one I'm taking now, launched a project to help schoolchildren draft a civic education bill and lobby for it in Frankfort.

At this year's Constitution Day, middle-school, high-school and college students will reconvene to update citizens on their draft bill, the Henry Clay-Sandra Day O'Connor Civic Education Act for Kentucky, which will be formally introduced with bipartisan support in October.

But the kids need the public's help: Please come to offer your ideas about what should, or should not, be included in the bill, which would change the way social studies (formerly called civics) is taught in Kentucky.

My class is organizing games, such as being quizzed by the Quiz Master on the U.S. Constitution. The kids will listen to speakers, including candidates for Kentucky governor and secretary of state, enjoy entertainment and win prizes. Last year, the kids learned that the Schoolhouse Rock video, "I'm Just a Bill," is great; it's just not how the legislative process really works. It didn't include lobbyists. This year the kids can teach you a thing or two about how Frankfort really works.

Citizens young and old will hear debates, see politicians in action, have a chance to register to vote and read a voters guide my class is preparing for Election Day, Nov. 8.

The only thing we have to fear is not having fun. We'll have free food for special guests, entertainment, music by an outstanding high-school choral program and much more. Even Henry Clay would be jealous.

Who knows what might happen? This could be the start of a new political party inspired by the Beastie Boys.

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