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Constitution is focus of Byrd's speech

September 17, 2005|By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va.

Just one day before the document's 218th birthday, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd called upon Americans Friday afternoon to consider the degree to which the United States Constitution still influences so much of the American way of life.

"No one should become complacent; the Constitution is not self-regulating. It depends on an informed populous," Byrd, D-W.Va., told a packed crowd of 350 inside the Storer Ballroom at Shepherd University's Student Center. "This deceptively simple document affects how we live in the United States. ... There is no reason why Americans cannot read it and consider how it affects events going on around them."

A supporter of Shepherd University and namesake of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, Byrd was selected to deliver the first annual Tom E. Moses Memorial Lecture on the Constitution.

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Shepherd University President David Dunlop, in introducing Byrd, praised his accomplishments on behalf of West Virginia and the nation and characterized the senior senator as a "defender of the Constitution, distinguished West Virginian and friend of the university."

Byrd, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, helped include language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act earlier this year that required all educational institutions receiving federal funds to hold an educational program for their students marking Sept. 17, the date in 1787 when the Constitution was approved.

Broadcast live on C-SPAN and watched by more than 150 students at overflow locations on the Shepherd University campus, Byrd said recent events, including the appointment of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, illustrate the need for citizens to be vigilant about the workings of their government.

Bolton was appointed, as provided in the second section of the second article of the Constitution, while Congress was on summer recess and can serve only until January 2007.

Byrd contrasted the appointment with Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, again referencing the same section of the Constitution in which the president is given the power to make such nominations, but "Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers."

The measure, Byrd said to the applause of the audience of Shepherd student, faculty and community members, "prevents a president from putting unqualified friends and cronies in office."

In the case of Bolton, Byrd said, "The American people were not allowed to have their concerns and questions pursued. ... Citizens interested in the role of the United States ... might now understand why they should be interested in the arcane provisions (of the Constitution)."

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