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Last week, we had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate Constitution Day here at UCF. For our celebration of the day, the Lou Frey Institute organized a panel of politicians and professors to discuss civil rights, the Constitution, and the importance of both perspective and collaboration in ‘getting things done’. The session was opened, as always, by former Representative Lou Frey (R-FL), founder of the eponymous Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government.

Rep. Lou Frey welcomes attendees to the Constitution Day panel discussion.

Rep. Lou Frey welcomes attendees to the Constitution Day panel discussion.

Happily, appreciation for the Constitution and the discussion around it was evident by the size of the crowd. It was a full house, and engagement among the college students, high school students, and community members was strong.

Attendees at the LFI sponsored Constitution listen as Rep. Torkildsen (R-MA) speaks

Attendees at the LFI sponsored Constitution listen as Rep. Torkildsen (R-MA) speaks

Following Rep. Frey’s remarks, Ambassador William Hughes (D-NJ; Ambassador to Panama, 1995-1998) and Representative Pete Torkildsen (R-MA) spoke about the importance of collaboration and compromise in the crafting of the Constitution and the passage of the Civil Rights Act under Johnson. Indeed, both spoke upon the relationship building necessary for true civic action to occur.

Pete Torkildsen (R-MA; yes they exist!) talks about inter party cooperation)

Pete Torkildsen (R-MA; yes they exist!) talks about inter party cooperation)

Amb. William Hughes (D-NJ) discusses civil rights legislation

Amb. William Hughes (D-NJ) discusses civil rights legislation

Following the remarks from the politicians, the conversation transitioned into a panel discussion featuring Rep. Torkildsen, Amb. Hughes, and two wonderful UCF Legal Studies professors, Dr. Cynthia Schmidt and Dr. James Beckman. Of course, Lou had a word or two to add as well!

The Panel Discussion: The US Constitution and the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

The Panel Discussion: The US Constitution and the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Lou Frey talks about working together to make a difference.

Lou Frey talks about working together to make a difference.

Perhaps the highlight of the morning involved one of our very own UCF students, Esther Mezhibovsky. Esther is an undergraduate at UCF, and she shared with the audience her award winning essay on the importance of civic education and civic engagement in achieving social reform and civic tolerance.

Ms. Mezhibovsky shares her award winning esssay

Ms. Mezhibovsky shares her award winning essay

It was, ultimately, a successful event, and based on the great questions asked by the audience, one which illustrated for us the great interest and passion citizens still have for our wonderful Constitution. And all attendees did leave with a parting gift:

Free pocket Constitutions for everyone!

Free pocket Constitutions for everyone!

Kudos to the staff of the Lou Frey Institute, especially Laura Stephenson and Marcia Bexley, for organizing it and to our politicians and professors for participating! How was YOUR Constitution Day? 🙂

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