Category Archives: Politics

A really unusual class

It is always fun when you walk into your classroom, and you realize that sitting in your class that period are the University President, the Vice President for External Relations and University Advancement, the Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications, the Director of Alumni & Parent Relations, several other professors (some quite noted in their field), and a member of the United States House of
Representatives. I knew several of them were going to be there, but it was quite overwhelming at the overall turnout.

Rep. Paul Broun was the guest speaker for my class yesterday. While I wish I could take credit for it, it was actually Gregg Kaufman, the campus Coordinator for the American Democracy Project.  I did manage to get a few pictures during the course of the Townhall style meeting. There was a panel of students who asked questions, and then the audience had a chance to submit questions as well.

Constitution Day, and a guest

There are days in history which speak their own importance. No one questions July 4th as a national holiday in the United States, nor should they. But what about September 17th? Is this day any less important? The Declaration of Independence was vital to the creation of this country, and yes, set forth some basic principles of governance. But, the Declaration is not the document that has governed the United States since that humid summer day in 1776.

But the principles set forth in the Declaration were just that: Principles. The United States as we know it did not come into existence until overly a decade later. On September 17th, 1787 the Constitutional Convention approved the document which we now call the United States Constitution. While the government would not be officially established under this document until March of 1789 following ratification, this is the day we celebrate the document itself.

This document was not without controversy, both during the convention (which had been called to amend the Articles of Confederation, not replace them) and during ratification. But, in the end, the Constitution was ratified based on a compromise which included the addition of a Bill of Rights.

Today, we celebrate the constitution. We celebrate the separation of powers. We celebrate the checks and the balances. We celebrate the republican form of government. But most of all, we celebrate “An empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.”[1] Hamilton goes on to write:

It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.[2]

Georgia College marked today by taking over my class (literally, I teach in the Auditorium) for a guest speaker. Dr. Bruce Stinebrickner was outstanding. I’ve heard many Constitution Day lectures, but this one was out of the park. Instead of doing as is typical and focusing on the Bill of Rights, he walked through a few features which made the body of the document unique. The three branches of government with full separation of powers only exist in one other country. With most other democracies, if you control parliament, you control the executive by default. Then he went on to who involved the public is in the nomination process. Most nominees are selected by the party insiders, not by the general population.

So, from this “reflection and choice” we have a document which has governed the United States for over two centuries with only 27 formal amendments. Political discussions aside, it is my firm belief, that this document has indeed been a prevention to the “general misfortune of mankind.”

Dr. Stinebrickner addresses three classes, and quite a few visitors, in the packed house at the Arts & Science Auditorium. Yes, that is the room where I teach twice a week.

And this was the view from the VIP section. Or, the section for the most junior part-time faculty member who was running the sound and assisting with the smart board. This space is also commonly referred to as the Green Room.

[1] Federalist 1, para 1.

[2] Ibid.

Where were you?

Every generation has a certain date where everyone knows exactly where they were and what they were doing. For some, it was the sinking of RMS Lusitania. For others, it is the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the assassination of John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr. For my generation, it will always be September 11th, 2001. The image burned into my mind is not that of the towers falling or of the people running in terror.

Instead, the image that promptly comes to mind is one very much like the one above, that of the Appling County Courthouse. My family and I were on our way to vacation at Jekyll Island. Well, it was a vacation for Mom and I. Dad was going to a conference. That morning, heading south for one last week of fun in the sun before we said goodbye to summer, we heard the news on the radio. It was more than my sixteen year old brain could wrap itself around. We got he early reports about an hour form the house. As we drove, more and more radio stations abandoned normal programming and went to straight news feed. By the time we got to Baxley, it was obvious it wasn’t an accident. That’s where the veterans memorial in a rural south Georgia town comes into play.

It sits next to a red light. That red light stopped our progress towards the beach, or by our thinking at the time, cable news. Sitting at that light in our old, forest green Chevy Blazer, I looked to the right and saw those flags. There are five of them around the memorial. The two on the left were at full staff. The two on the right were at half-mast. The one in the middle was being lowered. The rest of the week has faded into a horrific blur. That is the moment that stands out.

It has been running through my mind all day. But, there rose good news from the smoke and the ashes of that horrid day. The United States came together and became unified in a way I had not seen before. We worked together. We moved forward. The American spirit is strong enough to survive a crisis. In fact, crisis purifies and strengthens that spirit and makes it even stronger than before.

As the smoke cleared away, Al-Qaeda was faced with a harsh reality. Like Admiral Yamamoto before them, they soon found that instead of bringing the United States to its knees, they had only succeeded in waking a sleeping giant. And that giant is still awake, and this country is still strong. The American spirit survives.


Nerd Prom – 2012

Every year, the seriousness of politics in Washington, DC turns for a few hours into silliness and comedy. This tradition, begun in 1920 by the White House Correspondents’ Association, has since turned into an annual extravaganza where the Beltway elite gather for a little self-deprecating humor and light-hearted relief.

This year featured Jimmy Kimmel with the customary opening by the President. The video, posted on C-SPAN’s YouTube page, is embedded below.

President Obama:

Jimmy Kimmel:

If you would like to see last year’s speeches, they are also still available.