Constitution and Citizenship Day

Yesterday was a banner day for Southeastern University, where I teach. It was Constitution and Citizenship Day, a day set aside to remind students of the value of our constitutional form of government. To commemorate the signing of the Constitution [which was 223 years ago this week], we had as our special speaker former attorney general of the United States John Ashcroft.

Mr. Ashcroft first spoke in chapel, showing a rare mix of genuine humor and a clear grasp of the rule of law. By turns, serious and humorous, he made his points well and was warmly received by the student body. Rights come from God, not from the government, he told them. God has given us freedom and we need to use it responsibly.

Later, he conducted a question-and-answer session with students and other guests from the Lakeland community. It went more than an hour as he fielded wide-ranging queries: the War on Terror, the Patriot Act, the character of George W. Bush, and the need to live meaningful lives before God.

At a luncheon that followed, he focused on the importance of universities like Southeastern to provide the leverage necessary to restore the transmission of cultural values based on Christian faith.

The public sessions were excellent, but I was allowed to interact with him in other ways as well. The night before, some of us shared dinner with him, allowing us to see even more of his character. He has been unfairly criticized as someone who wants to force his beliefs on others. In fact, his main message is that God has given us freedom to choose; how then can we ever legitimately force others to accept our beliefs?

I also had the opportunity at the end of the sessions to drive him to the airport in Orlando. In that hour-long drive, we talked of many things, and I came away convinced [as if I needed any more convincing] that he is the “genuine article.”

For those who despair about the future of the nation and the character of those in government, John Ashcroft is a sterling reminder that those of real Christian character do exist, and they are part of the “salt” that continues to preserve this society.

May their number increase.