Some in Iowa City call for more serious Constitution Week


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It was roughly 224 years ago when an exhausted group pored over one of the United State’s most important documents — the Constitution.

Two centuries later, some in Iowa City are celebrating the city’s annual Constitution Week with patriotic caffeinated beverages but others are calling for a more serious observation of the document.

Those visiting the Coralville and Iowa City City Halls will be able to pick up copies of the Constitution, Preamble, and Pledge of Allegiance, literature provided by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“We try to give people something to think about,” said Marsha Hucke, the Daughters of the American Revolution Nathaniel Fellows Chapter Flag chairwoman and state librarian.

In addition to the reading of the Constitution, the document is being commemorated in some less conventional ways around the city. Fair Grounds Coffeehouse, 345 S. Dubuque St., is one of four serving specialty items this week.

“We’re bringing in some specialty coffees to be featured for the next three weeks,” said Steve Pernetti, owner of the coffee shop. “They are limited edition roasts from Seattle.”

Pernetti said he will also provide baked goods with the American flag or even in the shape of the Constitution.

But some Iowa City residents are concerned the light-hearted events may mislead students about the seriousness of the Constitution.

Linda Kerber, a University of Iowa professor of history, is dismayed the UI is not shining a more academic light on the Constitution. She said she was concerned about the nature of the mass email recently sent out by UI Associate Provost for Faculty Tom Rice. Kerber said some of the events didn’t seriously address the importance of the document.

“The Constitution is conspicuous,” she said. “The most living part of the Constitution is the Bill of Rights.”

Kerber stressed the importance of the meaning of the Constitution in her courses by requiring classes to memorize the first section of the 14th Amendment — what she considers to be one of the most important elements of the Constitution.

“I believe that long after people have left my classes and forgotten what I have tried to teach them I want them to have the 14th Amendment floating around in their heads,” she said. “… when people have protested the denial of civil rights and civil liberties and claimed equal protection under the law, it’s the 14th Amendment that they rely on.”

The UI is sponsoring a reading of the Constitution in the IMU Hubbard Commons by two U.S. Army cadets at noon on Friday.

“It’s helpful to commemorate the day. It’s good for everybody,” said event coordinator Lisa Von Muenster. After a smaller turnout last year, she urged students to stop by for part of the reading.

Hucke said knowing the Constitution is key to appreciating it.

“If you know what’s in the Constitution … you can fight to preserve the rights and freedoms that the Constitution grants,” she said. “[The Constitution is] a pretty amazing document.”

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