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Indiana Judge: People should work to preserve their rights

September 20, 2011

People should work to preserve the rights they have in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, Indiana's chief appellate court judge told an Indiana State University group Monday.

Citing a speech by former U.S. President John F. Kennedy at Vanderbilt University, Judge Margaret Robb told an audience of more than 150 people that "all Americans must be responsible citizens." Robb, the chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals, presented "The Constitution - Why We Care" as part of Constitution Day festivities at Indiana State. She spoke about various elements of the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments, along with a brief historical overview that included some information about the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution's predecessor.

"While we often speak of the rights that we have as citizens, it must be understood that, to ensure those rights, we have responsibilities and obligations," Robb told the audience. She cited Kennedy's speech, in which he listed three outstanding obligations for an educated citizen: obligations to the pursuit of learning, serve the public and upholding the law.

The U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution still in use, and has inspired other written constitutions throughout the world, said Robb, who added that its staying power may be "its simplicity and flexibility."

"It was designed in 1787 to provide a framework for governing four million people in 13 very different colonies along the Atlantic coast," she explained. "It now serves the needs of more than 300 million Americans, 50 more diverse states than the colonies that stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific and beyond."

She also spoke about the Indiana state constitution, which includes some elements of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

"Your privacy is protected, but remember you can waive your privacy," she said, "so be careful what you put on Facebook, what you Twitter, what you ... do with all of that other social media."

ISU President Dan Bradley and John Murray, dean of the College and Arts and Sciences, were among those in the audience of mostly college students. Carmen Tillery, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, along with several political science professors also attended the presentation.

"I thought the speech went very well," said Linda Maule, associate professor of political science and women's studies at ISU. "It nicely re-introduced the students to the U.S. Constitution and reminded them of its importance in their daily lives. It also emphasized that with liberty and other forms of rights comes responsibility and obligation."

During her speech, Robb cited a survey in which respondents knew more about some aspects of popular culture than they did about some elements of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

"I think she covered a lot of information that people overlook, things that people don't really research or get educated on in a daily basis," said Simon Vega, a junior legal studies and Spanish double major from Portage, "so I think she covered a lot of materials we learn as kids that we take for granted, which we tend to forget over the years and aren't re-taught later."

Robb's speech indicated that, while many people value the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, they may not necessarily know much about them, Maule. She also said that people should remember that the U.S. Constitution was a product of agreement, another point Robb highlighted in her speech.

"Everything required a compromise," she told the crowd, "something that is probably pretty foreign to people right now."

After her speech, which lasted about half an hour, Robb answered questions about several topics, including her background in business before she entered the legal field, which she realized was a good fit for her.

"If you do something you like," Robb said, "you'll never work a day in your life."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Constitution-Day-address-2011/i-L76fPsB/0/D/09192011Constitutiondayspeaker-D.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Margaret Robb, chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals, during her Constitution Day presentation at Indiana State University.

Contact: Linda Maule, associate professor of political science and women's studies and director of the Foundational Studies program, Indiana State University, 812-237-3940 or linda.maule@indstate.edu.

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.