Public reading of the Constitution commemorates Constitution Day

Truman State hosted a community reading of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution to commemorate the 228th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

The event took place at 5 p.m. last Thursday at the north end of The Quad near the flagpole.

Political science professor Randy Hagerty, event chair, says he thinks the reading was the largest in the nation.

“We haven’t done the systematic research of that yet, but we are going to invite the Guinness World Records people and try to get them to the event next year so we can all go in the books as the largest community joint reading of the declaration and the Preamble to the Constitution,” Hagerty says.

Hagerty says the event was not limited to members of the Truman community, but also extended to the city council, city staffers and A.T. Still University students. Hagerty says the goal was to host a community event that went beyond campus confines.

Communication professor James Cianciola, who first had the idea for the public reading, says he was pleased with how the gathering went.

“I think there were some really moving moments where we felt connected to one another because of this document,” Cianciola says. “That’s what we were hoping for.”

Cianciola says he thought it was interesting that two of the speakers, Missouri House Representative Nate Walker and University President Troy Paino, were carrying copies of the Constitution with them.

History professor Mark Hanley says it was significant that the passages were read as a group.

“The Constitution really materializes the people as an authentic foundation of political power in the American government.That was truly novel, truly revolutionary. It was a radical moment in American history, so to have a reading where you get people in a physical way to gather and affirm their bond with those words is significant.”

         – Mark Hanley, History professor

The event began with English professor James D’Agostino’s reading of William Stafford’s “A Ritual to Read to Each Other,” D’Agostino then introduced Walker, who spoke about the importance of the rights protected in the Constitution. Paino then related his experiences during the first Constitution Day, when this celebratory day first was instituted nationwide. Walker and Paino said they frequently carry copies of the Constitution with them.

Paino then led the crowd in reading aloud a passage from the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution, with the text found on papers passed out by students. After the reading, Hanley spoke about the history of the Constitution to conclude.