By Mike Lauterborn
(for Sacred Heart University)
Fairfield, CT – There was fire in her words, conviction in her voice and nothing short of an S.O.S. in her message.
On Wednesday afternoon September 14, Sacred Heart University, 5151 Park Avenue, hosted Martha Dean, Esq., the 2010 Republican candidate for Connecticut Attorney General. To commemorate the university’s 7th annual celebration of Constitution Day, Dean delivered a passionate address titled “Defibrillating the Constitution: Jump-Starting the Heart of America’s Economic Engine.”
Conducted in the Schine Auditorium to a full house, the talk drew on Dean’s 23 years of experience practicing law and specific constitutional cases she has personally handled. Dean is also an established business owner, with a stable of attorneys in her 16-year-old law firm.
Besides having Dean on hand, the university announced the publication of pocket-sized copies of both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, to give students and lawmakers in Connecticut fingertip access to these important documents. Attorney Deborah Stevenson conceived the project and, at the conclusion of Dean’s remarks, distributed copies to all in attendance.
Professor and Chair of the Department of Government and Politics, staff member for over 30 years, and coordinator of Constitution Day Gary L. Rose, Ph.D. introduced Dean, providing some background about the commemoration to start. “About eight years ago, the late Senator Robert Byrd initiated legislation that any college or high school receiving federal aid should set aside a day to honor the Constitution,” he said. “September 14 was the day the Constitution was ratified. The legislation permitted the day to be marked within the week before or after that date.”
Byrd said there had been a wide range of scholarly past Constitution Day speakers, which included Quinnipiac Law Professor William Dunlap, think tanker Todd Gaziano, U.S. Congressmen Chris Shays and Jim Himes, Civil Liberties Union head Sandy Staub and Barry Schaler. Byrd added that the school does not cater to any party view or pursue a particular agenda with these presentations.
Dressed in a conservative dark blue suit jacket, flower print scarf, pink top and long navy skirt, Dean took to the stage saying that her given 30 minutes was really too compact to provide a comprehensive Constitution overview, so she focused on offering thoughts the gathering may not have heard before.
“Every generation is called upon to defend this great nation – the reality and idea of America. This begins in our homes,” she said. “Our Founding Fathers lit the fire of freedom. In our homes, it is stoked anew, and the passing on of the flame is a responsibility. And yet we must exercise restraint – or the force of government will be used to restrain us.”
She continued, “Rights pre-date our Constitution and came from kings and dictators, but never did a society write them down. The Constitution was put in place to confirm our rights – rights given by God, and hence empirical.”
Dean stressed that we must understand the Constitution – put simply, that it protects our God-given rights. “It’s the only truly legitimate function of government. It’s a brilliant and enduring document,” she said.
Dean inferred that our elected officials can be flippant in their messages. “Politicians often say, ‘I love America.’ It’s worth asking them for clarification,” she said. “To love something means so much more than finding something pleasing and convenient. It means you’ve made a commitment to uncover its essence, to understand more of what God intended it to be. What is the essence of America? Commit yourself to that.”
The esteemed attorney considers the Constitution to be a remarkable document. “Despite mankind’s superior existence, man has lived in dampness and squalor until recently. The Constitution and the ideas of our Founding Fathers are truly a miracle that has changed for the better the lives of people the world over. Freedom combined with morality. The right to have and do things combined with responsibility.”
Dean reminded the group that the Constitution’s creators agreed on 28 great principles that underpin our republic and proceeded to recite those 28, summarizing each with a sentence.
The noted speaker said that the real power of the famed document is the freedom it provides that unleashes the creativity of a few who make remarkable discoveries benefiting us all.
Raising a red flag, she asked, “Why do we look to other countries to interpret our own Constitution? Is this the type of effort that’s consistent with our trying to understand our nation and our Constitution, or a reflection of self-doubt or self-interest or arrogance to create a more perfect America?”
She continued, “Our leaders have forgotten what principles our country was founded upon. The flame has not been passed along in the home. Schools have forgotten per the textbooks. This is the start of a decline into darkness. I truly believe America is in Code Blue. This is a very scary time.”
Dean added that our rights are already being encroached upon. “There’s no point in having other rights if you don’t have the right to earn a living,” she said. “In times of economic crisis, legislators feel compelled to make bad law.”
But there’s hope she offered. “The Tea Party movement. Individuals across the country from various parties who are focused on the Constitution. They realize the one thing that can be done is to rekindle the fire our Founding Fathers started. The Constitution is the only medicine that will work.”
Another bright group, she suggested, is the Institute for Justice, started by young lawyers. “They have come to the defense of small businesses, like hair braiders, shoe shiners, and independent taxis. They are a great resource,” she said, adding, “and love to work with young graduates.”
Dean made a quick final assessment of our country’s state before relinquishing the podium. “Our individual liberties are well protected right now, but we’re doing a terrible job of protecting our economic liberties. There’s a lot of work to be done if you truly love this country.”