On Sept. 18 on the University of North Georgia’s Oconee campus, Tom Krause, chief of staff to state Sen. Bill Cowsert, and Donavan Eason, who serves as Cowsert’s general counsel, discussed the U.S. Constitution to mark its 230th anniversary, which took place on Sept. 17.
Throughout the week of Sept. 17- 23, UNG hosted events on multiple campuses commemorating the occasion.
On the Oconee campus, the American Democracy Project initially slated Cowsert to speak at the Constitution Day event. Ultimately, his work as a lawyer presented a scheduling conflict. Despite the senator’s absence, Krause and Eason engaged in a wide-ranging dialogue on the Constitution.
The commemorative event aimed to inform students of the Constitution’s influence as a foundational document. In the discussion, Krause and Eason related the amendments to current events and the state legislature.
“It’s over 200 years old, and it has changed very little in that amount of time,” Krause said. “That is fascinating when it is so important to how the country runs.”
Citing term limits, Krause said, “If you look at our elected leaders they are really easy to get out of office. … The Constitution, on the other hand, is very difficult to change, as it should be.”
“In the late 1800s, the 10 parts of the Bill of Rights were added and since then only 17 other amendments have been added to it,” Krause said. “We’ve only changed the words to the Constitution 17 times in over 200 years.”
Krause added that 11,000 congressional appeals to alter the Constitution emerged throughout history.
After Krause provided historical context, Eason discussed the interplay between state and federal governments concerning the Georgia Constitution.
“We’re still very much an experiment,” Eason said. “Democracy was a really new concept of governing a population. The states have their own very firm identity under each Constitution, and that’s constantly in somewhat of a shared tension with the United States Constitution.”
Eason and Krause discussed this tension in contemporary issues. According to Eason, one challenge of the Constitution arises when aligning the document to modern court cases. The speakers recognized that emerging technologies and unprecedented situations require lawmakers to interpret the standards outlined in the Constitution.
While the historical context of the Constitution contributes to certain modern challenges, Krause attributed the same historic framework with providing a stable and functional foundation for American democracy.
“The Constitution is the basis of what makes sense,” Krause said. “That’s what makes it, 200 years later with only a few changes, relevant to the way we live today.”