Legal Experts Give Their Rulings on the Role of the Constitution in Constitution Day Debate

Georgetown rang in Constitution Day on Wednesday with a debate in the Gonda Theater between top legal minds on the modern adaptability of constitutional law.

This year’s headline event, titled “The Constitution, the Courts and Checks and Balances,” centered on this debate moderated by Joan Biskupic, the Supreme Court reporter for USA Today. Focused on the modern role of the judiciary branch in tackling issues such as the rights of foreign detainees in the Guantanamo Bay prison, the discussion emanated from the ever-adapting role of the Constitution in the modern judiciary.

Brett Kavanaugh, a panelist and judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, said this event highlights the true genius of the country’s supreme legal text.

“Constitution Day is a celebration of the actual text,” he said. “The Constitution tells us itself it was intended for posterity.”

Kavanaugh was joined on the panel by Viet Dinh, former assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy and professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center; Patricia Wald, former chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; and Seth Waxman, former U.S. Solicitor General.

Constitution Day celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on September 17th, 1787. In 2004, a law was established requiring all publicly funded institutions to educate their students about the Constitution.

The debate was sponsored by the Office of Federal Relations in conjunction with the Constitution Project, a bipartisan think tank committed to preserving constitutional safeguards. Before the debate, Constitution Project president Virginia Sloan awarded the 2008 Award for Constitutional Commentary to former New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse.

– Caitlin MacNeal

Taking Over the World One Fulbright Scholar at a Time

Want to travel to Morocco, China, Egypt, Columbia or Syria, among other exotic locations?

These are just a sample of the countries where this year’s Georgetown Fulbright scholars will be studying.

Eighteen Georgetown students and alumni received Fulbright Fellowship scholarships for the 2008-2009 academic year.

“Georgetown’s international focus and increasing emphasis on undergraduate research equip students with a solid grounding for making a Fulbright application,” said Maryam Mohamed, the associate director in the Office of the Fellowship Secretary and the university’s Fulbright Program adviser. “The vast majority of undergraduates who won Fulbrights last year had participated in some kind of undergraduate research, and study abroad.”

Proposed by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright Scholar Program was approved by President Truman and Congress in 1946. Grants are given to U.S. citizens and nationals of other countries for educational activities including university lecturing, research, graduate study and teaching at elementary and secondary schools.

At Georgetown, the popularity of the Fulbright has taken off and led to increasing numbers of students with tickets to travel and study around the world.

ohamed said she is very impressed by the breadth of research projects that will be conducted this year by Georgetown students

“Our students are off to a wide variety of countries as diverse as the Netherlands, Azerbaijan and China,” Mohamed said. “They are conducting important, timely and significant work, ranging from the correlation between HIV and sexual abuse among young Argentine women, to Turkish student assimilation in Germany, to the relation between cell phones and health care in Tanzania.”

Alexander Davenport (SFS ’08), a Fulbright scholar who will be studying the education issues for migrant children in China, said Georgetown offered the perfect springboard for his upcoming international research.

“I think it is no surprise Georgetown has been so successful with Fulbright Scholarships given that Georgetown cultivates exactly what the Fulbright seeks to further, namely a curiosity and engagement in the world beyond the United States,” he said.

– Christine Roberts

88 Colleges to Soar in Boeing’s New Rankings

The Boeing Company will be releasing its own college ranking in the next month that lists colleges based on the success of its graduates as Boeing employees.

The Chicago-based aerospace and defense corporation will release a list of 88 colleges and universities, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Boeing spokesperson Cindy Wall declined to comment on the specific criteria for the ranking or whether Georgetown was included on the list.

The corporation, which employs over 160,000 people throughout the world, is not listed on the Hoya Career Connection as a Georgetown employer, but 13 alumni are listed on the Alumni Career Network as Boeing employees.

According to Michael Schaub, executive director of the Georgetown Career Education Center, many companies base their recruiting on similar criteria.

“Companies regularly use employee performance trends based on the school attended to decide where to focus their recruiting efforts,” Schaub said.

Companies often recruit heavily from colleges and universities that have provided them with effective employees in the past. Schaub cited Goldman Sachs and the Department of Defense as employers with which Georgetown has a similar relationship.

Wall stressed Boeing’s goal of fostering relationships with colleges from which it hires. In the past, Boeing’s relationships with universities have manifested themselves in scholarships and fellowship programs for students.

It remains to be seen how Georgetown will fare, or indeed whether or not the university will be included in the ranking at all.

– Diana McCue

Paraguayan Ambassador Calls for Free-Flowing Trade

Even in the midst of the recent dark times of the U.S. economy, Paraguayan ambassador to the United States James Spalding said in a dialogue with a group of about 20 students yesterday that more U.S. trade Paraguay would help with his country’s economy.

Spalding focused on the need to reduce economic inequality, which he said is still a serious issue in his country even with a 6.4-percent GDP growth rate in 2007.

“We still have a long way to go in reducing poverty,” Spalding said during the talk, part of Georgetown’s Ambassador’s Series program and sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies. The ambassador did, however, cite the growth of international trade as an important development in improving the lives of Paraguayans.

“The ultimate objective is to allow a free flow of goods,” he said.

With a current export to import ratio with the United States of one to 20, any increase in trade with the United States would increase foreign investment in Paraguay, Spalding said. As a member of Mercosur, a regional trade agreement between Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, the country cannot negotiate bilateral trade agreements, and can only enter into an agreement with the United States if the entire bloc chooses to do so. Spalding also requested more U.S. assistance in combating illicit drug trafficking and human trafficking in Paraguay. “If there’s one thing I could wave a magic wand and solve, it would be this [human trafficking problem],” he said.

– Charlie Nocker

New Court Ruling Leads to Eased Gun Restrictions in D.C.

The D.C. City Council announced Tuesday that it had voted to ease the city’s gun restriction laws in order to comply with a recent Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, which overturned most of the city’s handgun laws, including a ban on the ownership of handguns in private homes.

“These actions will continue to protect our citizens from gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment,” Mayor Adrian Fenty said in a press release.

Semi-automatic weapons will now be allowed in the district, while a ban on automatic weapons will remain in place.

Additionally, safe-storage laws will now be eased and a restriction on pistol registration permits will be placed at one pistol per month rather than one pistol per person.

Amendments to the existing legislation also include a restatement of the language regarding the carrying of firearms without a license.

In response to the Supreme Court decision back in June, Councilmember Muriel Bowser said that “this decision will likely introduce more handguns into the District of Columbia.”

While the city council has passed legislation in order to comply with the June Supreme Court ruling, the House has sought to further curb the Council’s ability to regulate gun control laws in the district.

“The Council continues to move expeditiously to meet the requirements of the Supreme Court decision, keeping in mind the public safety of our citizens,” said Council Chairman Vincent Gray.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) fought for a House bill which would simply require the district to comply with the high court’s ruling, a much less restrictive bill than what was passed.

The Metropolitan Police Department now offers free trigger locks and has implemented a handgun safety initiative aimed at ensuring that handguns aren’t sold to those who may be deemed dangerous or unfit.

“Rest assured that we are continuing strong enforcement of criminal gun laws,” said MPD Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

– Brad Pollina

cCain Adviser Embraces Expansionist Identity

Americans today are too quick to deny the country’s global ambitions and must learn to accept its expansionist past, said Robert Kagan, author, historian and political commentator, on Wednesday afternoon in a speech in Copley Formal Lounge.

Kagan, who is also a foreign policy adviser for Senator John McCain, received the Lepgold Book Prize for his work “Dangerous Nation.”

He said the United States and its policy makers have had expansionist desires since the nation’s first days, a far cry from the isolationism often attributed to 18 and 19 century Americans.

“The leaders of the young republic imagined that their nation was a Hercules in the cradle,” he said. “It was a nation with almost boundless ambition.”

Before long, these expansionist dreams were realized in dealings with Native Americans, the British, the Spanish and even Southern states that wished to secede.

Over time, Kagan said, he feels that some things never change.

“I’m more struck by continuities than by differences,” he said.

Kagan said that the United States undertook nine significant military operations from 1989 to 2003, more than any similar span in the nation’s history.

Americans today, however, are reluctant to look upon their nation as filled with global aspirations, Kagan said, instead taking a more idealistic view.

Given the degree of U.S. military engagement in recent years, though, he said, Americans ought to reconsider the role history has played in shaping today’s policies.

“We make the error of thinking our pasts, and our histories are not relevant to what’s going on today,” he said. “The first step to knowing ourselves and to wisely shaping our future is to see our past as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

The Lepgold Book Prize is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Lepgold, an award-winning Georgetown professor of government who died tragically in 2001 in a Paris hotel fire, said Peter Krogh, dean emeritus of the School of Foreign Service, in presenting Kagan a gold medal with Lepgold’s likeness.

-Ben Buchanan

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.