Constitution Day program honors America

Steinburg talks about kneeling during National Anthem

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D.F. Walker Elementary teacher Jennifer Cranford puts the finishing touches on her students before they perform their skit about life 230 years ago.

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By Miles Layton

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Edenton Tea Party NSDAR's Constitution Day program was standing room only Saturday morning at the historic 1767 Chowan County Courthouse. Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, the keynote speaker, offered remarks about why it is wrong to kneel during the National Anthem.

“We have some who think it is cool or in vogue to not stand when saluting our flag and not sing the National Anthem – to turn their backs on it,” he said. “That is sad for many reasons, but the most important reason is, if we do not honor the flag which represents everything this nation stands for and the Constitution, then we are not even honoring and protecting their right to do what they have chosen to do. That's what that document is.”

During many sporting events across the nation this past weekend, more than a few athletes kneeled during the “Star Spangled Banner.” President Donald Trump expressed his view condemning those who bent their knees in protest while praising those who support the American flag as patriots.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” Trump tweeted Saturday.

Meanwhile inside an historic courthouse in Edenton, the community gathered to pay tribute to the Constitution. The Rev. Malone Gilliam of St. Paul's Episcopal Church offered remarks about how children were raised during Colonial times to respect authority, the value of hard work and good character – virtues of which contributed to being good citizens. Maybe as a testament to those values, Chowan Middle School's choir joined the Albemarle Sounds, a men's choir, and sang “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” – a snippet of which can be viewed on the Chowan Herald's Facebook page.

CMS Principal John Lassiter and Carisa Copeland, CMS art teacher, presented art certificates to students who drew posters in honor of Constitution Day. First place went to Reagan Stallings, followed by Jack Bobitt in second place, JaMya Parks in third and Erica Pacheco as honorable mention. John A. Holmes JROTC posted and would later retrieve the Colors when the patriotic ceremony ended.

“Saturday was a wonderful blending of our past history and today's world,” Edenton Tea Party's regent Gay McClelland Chatham said. “The Constitution guarantees our rights and freedom to everyone of every age. We think it is so important to involve our students in our country's history and make it real to them.”

Dressed in Colonial period clothing, Dr. Key Stage discussed his famous ancestor, Francis Scott Key, who wrote the “Star Spangled Banner” that is now in the news again in more ways than one. Two weeks ago, vandals defaced Key's statue by spray-painting the words “Racist Anthem” as well as splashing red paint on the monument in Baltimore where the National Anthem was written following the battle 203 years ago between Sept. 13-14 in that port city.

Steinburg didn't read from prepared remarks, but spoke from the heart when he laid out in no uncertain terms why the Constitution matters in age when high paid athletes or maybe even 8-year-old football players in Illinois feel comfortable bending a knee during the National Anthem.

“One of the dangers we face today is ignorance about this particular document,” said Steinburg, a three-term legislator. “It is our life insurance policy, our annuity and our way forward as individuals. This is the modus operandi of the United States of America. This is the document that gives each and everyone of us the freedoms and liberties that we possess.”

Steinburg, who carries around a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution, addressed the danger the nation faces when folks do not understand or respect the Constitution.

“The danger is, in my view, if we don't understand the Constitution or we relegate it to the ash heap of history – it's just an old document and what do we have to know that for – that's where the real danger begins,” he said. “We will forever remain a free nation as long as we understand our rights as given to us in this Constitution. Our rights will be taken away from us and we won't even know it if we are ignorant of what this document provides.”

The United States is a nation governed by laws, so knowing the value of 230-year-old Constitution matters.

“If you've gotten nothing else out of history, and I hope you get a whole lot more, but an understanding of the Constitution, then you would be doing yourself, your family, your neighbors, your community, your state and nation a great favor because it is going to take people like us to step up,” Steinburg said. “When someone has crossed the line and done something they shouldn't have done, we can cite that under the Constitution. We can take legal action to correct it.”

While not everyone may agree on what's best for the nation, but no one should “demean” the flag and Constitution because of what they represent.

“When you get up to salute the flag or when you sing the 'Star Spangled Banner,' you may have things that bother you about actions or courses of actions that our nation may have taken that disturb you, but there is a process under the Constitution for addressing that,” Steinburg said. “There is a way to go about having your concerns heard and then hopefully, if you are on the right course through the legal process, you can have those issues addressed and, perhaps, change. But demeaning the flag demeans the Constitution. If you demean the Constitution, the Constitution becomes irrelevant, then you don't have freedoms any more, neither do I and neither do any of us. That's what we are saluting when we salute the flag. That's what we're saying when we say “God Bless America.” Those are the things that mean so much to us in the broad sense, but they really get to the essence of what our freedoms and liberties are all about.”

Steinburg concluded by saying only “we” can defeat “us” as a nation.

“We don't have to worry about North Korea and all the other powers around the world that saber rattle and threaten us from time to time,” he said. “If we are to be defeated, we will be defeated by our own hands, by ignorance of documents like the Constitution of the United States. I beseech you, please, that you, your family, your friends, your neighbors take the time to understand and want your freedoms honored. It is the only way that you will be able to protect them and keep them for generations to come.”

McClelland gave Steinburg's speech high marks.

“Rep. Steinburg's speech about the intimacy and importance of the Constitution and how it touches our everyday lives was inspired and inspiring,” she said. “I was so moved by his connection between the Constitution and honoring the Flag of the United States. He referred to respecting the flag and the Constitution versus 'bending the knee.' I think for many of the folks here Saturday, his connection between the Flag, The National Anthem and the Constitution brought a new understanding about showing respect and honor to our nations symbols of freedom.”