Dozens of eager hands shot into the air looking to answer a question posed by a special guest speaker at Washington Catholic Elementary Tuesday. The kids were looking to provide an answer to a question about America’s blueprint document, the Constitution. Daviess Circuit Court Judge Greg Smith was posing the question as part of a special program on Constitution and Citizenship Day.
“This is a good way to outreach to the students,” said Judge Smith. “It’s a chance to explain to them how important the Constitution is, to get them to understand how important this document is that still governs across the street in the courthouse.”
The WC students, from kindergarten to grade 5, have been studying the Constitution for the past week, getting ready to meet with the judge. “This is great,” said WC Elementary Principal Jeanne Heltzel. “This is our first time for this Constitution Day, and it went very well.”
The event may not be well known but it dates back to the early 1950s. President Harry Truman set the day aside as one to honor the Constitution and it was later adjusted to be called Constitution-Citizenship Day. Now the Indiana Supreme Court uses the day to try and get judges to visit schools and talk about the document. Judge Smith was one of 44 judges around the state who spoke with more than 2,000 students.
“I wanted to impress upon them that our Constitution is important,” said Smith. “We the people made the government and the government works for us and not us for them.”
The discussion with the kids ranged from the preamble, through the amendments. Pieces of history and political theory were mixed with the operations of the local court and the federal court system. The kids and judge exchanged both questions and answers. “These kids were energetic and curious,” said Smith after the session. “There were hands up everywhere.”
“I think the children got a lot out of this,” said Heltzel. “I really think they got more familiar about the courts.”
The event also produced a secondary effect. It gave the kids a chance to see someone that is local who has achieved success. “He came out in his robe and brought the gavel,” said Heltzel. “The children liked that. He is a person that was born and raised here and can be a role model for them. If they go to school, stay in school and work hard they can succeed.”