Law Professor Garrett Epps of the University of Baltimore spoke to students on the meaning of the Constitution, in his lecture entitled “What Does the Constitution Really Say?” honoring this year’s Constitution Day.
The lecture, held on September 15 in the Glendenning Annex, was co-sponsored by the The Center for the Study of Democracy and The Political Science Department. It was an alternative perspective into what the Constitution’s original purpose was. It was, as Professor Michael Cain stated, a talk of the “beauty of the Constitution.”
Epps notes that within the debate over the intent of the Constitution, the text of the Constitution is often missing. He states that “Americans love the Constitution, but have barely read it.” Thus he elaborated the literal meaning of the work and the parallels he draws to the modern American interpretation.
As Epps noted, ordinary citizens have little interest in the Constitution, yet “there are a number of ways to read [it.]” His discussion posed questions concerning the time period in which the work was written and how the Framers did not expect the the Constitution to last nearly as long as it has. He engaged the audience by comparing the first story in the Odyssey to the Constitution; it was the first occasion of a governing body. Epps’ critique on American culture and perspective actively opened the debate of the Constitution, noting that we know one thing of the Framers intentions: “they intended to write the words [that are] written on the paper.”
The conclusion of his talk left time for questioning and a signing of Epps’ book, Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America. Senior Pamela Schrenk stated that “[it was] nice to get a perspective from someone who is not your professor…it gave me a lot to think about.”
In the future, the Center of Study of Democracy is organizing upwards of 30 more events and speakers to come to campus.