Chief justice of Supreme Court celebrates Constitution Day

Tiffany Ciesicki

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer speaks to a group in the Student Center last night. He was present for Kent State’s first observance of Constitution Day.

Credit: Ben Breier

Thomas J. Moyer, chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, stressed how alive and functioning the Constitution still is today in the speech he gave at the Student Center last night.

“The Constitution is a living document – still a very vital document,” Moyer said. “It’s still the basis for many legal issues.”

Moyer was brought to Kent State by Library and Media Services, the Provost Office and the Political Science Department to speak in commemoration of Constitution Day. He spoke on the history as well as importance of the document many citizens take for granted.

“Many of our citizens simply do not know much about our democratic institution,” he said.

It is important for citizens to understand the fundamentals on which it was founded, he said, and that the government was formed to serve the people. The first three words of the Constitution – “We the people” – alone distinguish this government from all other governments in the world, Moyer said.

What Moyer finds very frustrating is the number of young people uninformed and disinterested about the structure of their government.

“Democratic governments don’t function unless people are informed,” Moyer said.

He said he blames the institutions in which these young people are taught. The future generations cannot know what they are not taught. Being uninformed is “not the fault of young people,” he said.

“I think it’s a failure of some schools that they do not spend more time teaching responsibilities as a citizen,” Moyer said. “Every student should know at least a number of the basic rights, especially in this world where our values are being challenged.”

Moyer said he believes that many people today are so caught up in the material aspects of their lives that they tune out much of what is really important.

“We need to know why those rights are so important,” he said.

Moyer said he would like to advise everyone, especially young people, to spend a little time each week informing themselves of current events and the structure of government.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and a Supreme Court judge, like Moyer, must interpret what is outlined in the Constitution and apply it to issues today. Moyer said judges do not define laws, they simply use their judgment to find their meaning.

“(A judge) has neither force nor will, but has judgment,” he said.

Though Moyer agrees that different people share different values and beliefs on what fundamental rights are, he said he believes the ones our country was founded on are pretty basic.

“People should be allowed to live their life and seek happiness,” Moyer said. “Those seem to me to be pretty fundamental.”

Moyer closed his speech with a statement on what makes the Constitution such a “brilliant” document.

“A Constitution that embodies the fundamental beliefs of its citizens will always, at any point in time, guide a civilized people through unforeseen challenges and the uncertainties of human conduct,” Moyer said.

Yesterday’s event was held in recognition of Constitution Day and was the university’s first observance of the newly declared holiday.

Last year, President Bush officially signed a bill designating Sept. 17 as Constitution Day, according to

It was later mandated that all educational institutions receiving federal funding sponsor programs or events about the U.S. Constitution be in observance of Constitution Day, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Many universities found it a challenge to plan an event because the Education Department did not release its guidelines until last May. Also, many colleges were left scrambling to organize events because the day fell so early in the academic year.

Moyer was chosen to speak at Kent State for Constitution Day because of his position and authority as well as his enthusiasm for his job, Provost Paul Gaston said.

Contact library reporter Tiffany Ciesicki at [email protected].