By Judge Lisa Lowe, Knoxville
On September 17, 2018, we celebrated Constitution Day.
The Knoxville Barristers, which is the young lawyers division of the Knoxville Bar Association, always has a school community outreach program during Law Week. For years and years (yes, for so long that they were doing it, even when I was president of the Barristers fifty million years ago), they would go to the schools and show a video of the trial of the three little pigs to third-graders. I’m sure the video was great in its time, but it should’ve been retired or at least significantly updated a LONG time ago.
For this pilot year, the Barristers went to Christenberry Elementary School third-grade classes to teach a lesson on the Constitution. The children were tasked with creating presentations related to the Constitution, and on Constitution Day, local Judges came to the school to “judge” the presentations, talk about how the Constitution affects their jobs and everyday lives, and answer questions.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the judges. These kids did an absolutely fabulous job with their presentations! It was great to see them knowledgeable and excited about the Constitution and the legal community. Probably the most interesting presentation was the group that had to create a fourth branch of government. They came up with the “environmental branch.”
We all are aware of the Constitution, but unless you are a con law professor or a criminal law attorney, it’s not always in the forefront of our minds. Before I went to Christenberry, I decided to look up some “fun facts” to share. I learned a few tidbits that I either knew but forgot or never knew at all. You might find them interesting:
- The Constitution is only five pages long. It’s the oldest and shortest governing document of any nation.
- It took 100 days to frame the Constitution. They worked from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., six days per week, with only one 10-day break.
- Benjamin Franklin was the oldest person to sign at 81. He had to have help doing so and had tears streaming down his face.
- George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents to sign.
- It was the first time “The United States of America” was used.
- George Washington enacted Thanksgiving as a way to give thanks for the new Constitution (This one blew my mind, since it’s always associated with pilgrims and Native Americans).
- From 1804 until 1865, there were no amendments. That’s the longest period in history with no changes.
- It’s only been changed 17 times since 1791.
- Several words are misspelled (this one would really peeve our blog editor).
Zach and Luke’s new program was not only a success for the kiddos, but also it was a success for the teachers and the judges who participated. I think we all learned something we didn’t know before, and we were reminded of the significant impact that the Framers’ efforts have on this country and our daily lives.
But the best part for me was hearing some of the kids talking about the fact that they want to be lawyers one day, seeing their faces light up when they put on my robe and held my gavel, and the hugs I got at the end!