We The People

Dana Solatka, Staff Writer

Dr. James Vining hosted a Constitution day celebration on Sept. 17 in the E-lounge. Dr. Vining opened the event reciting the preamble to remind the audience how people see the Constitution either as a solid document (known as Originalism) or as a flexible document (as a living Constitution) able to bend to one’s own interpretation or utilize the Constitution as a frame to then apply to today’s modern society.  


He then elaborated on how the Constitution serves to “form a more perfect union” and how both parties could agree to see this text as a living document that future leaders will have a hand in shaping this “more perfect union.” He implored the audience to honor the document to live out the story it wants to tell. Dr. Vining stressed the importance of everyone being active citizens. 


Three students gave speeches about how GSU made them active students. Isabella “Izzy” Hollingsworth, a communications major, spoke about how we are stronger together, while Stephan Shaw, a student with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice working towards a masters degree in communications, implored us all to speak the truth. Lastly, Nechawn Johnson spoke about representation, showcasing, and appreciating those who go unnoticed. After hearing these stories, Dr. Vining invited us to discuss amongst ourselves what GSU has done to form a more perfect union. Students chatted about the art hosted at this school, the success of programs such as the male success initiative, and the diversity at this school. 


After the group session, Dr. Vining invited social activist Khary Penebaker to the stage where Penebaker then told his somber story of how his mother committed suicide with a firearm when he was young. After years of pain, he decided something needed to be done and break the cycle because he wanted no one to be left with a hole in their heart like him. He decided to take his personal pain and turn it into citizen action. Penebaker noted that “in order to love your country, you have to love all the people in it” and noted that he is working towards making sure all people in the country are well loved. 


Penebaker segued into personal actions. He noted that while he has over 90,000 Twitter followers, he actually does something. He said that too many people are on social media are thinking they’re doing something, but not voting. He stated: “Voting is a moral imperative.” With this, he touched briefly about the right to vote, stressing that only white men had the right when the Constitution was first put into place. Penebaker emphasized that for every vote not cast, we are giving our voice to someone else. He then noted that in 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the Wisconsin vote by 20,000 votes, and Wisconsin recorded a little more than 20,000 fewer votes than predicted. He clarified that maybe those thousands of people weren’t going to vote for Clinton, but they did give their voice to someone else. 


Penebaker then gave his closing remarks by noting the “Governors” in our university’s name and encouraged us to aspire for big things. He pushed everyone in the audience to find the part they can play in society’s democracy, then do it, then keep doing it. “You don’t have to put a D behind your name like I do,” Penebaker stated, “You have to vote.