MACU dons period wear for Constitution Week
By Reggie Ponder
Thursday, September 21, 2017
It’s not every day you see college students dressed in Colonial Era garb — but then not every week is Constitution Week.
Half a dozen or so Mid-Atlantic Christian University students commemorated the signing of the U.S. Constitution by wearing period attire on Wednesday. It was the highlight of this year’s observance of Constitution Week at MACU.
The event was spearheaded by Ronnie Woolard, a professor of Bible at MACU. Woolard envisioned the costumed students as a conversation starter to get people talking to each other about the Constitution and its importance.
Jonathan Langley said Woolard emphasized the point when he asked him about wearing a costume.
“He said it was a way to raise awareness for Constitution Week — just a good reminder of our freedoms,” said Jonathan Langley, a MACU freshman from Columbia.
The costume was a bit uncomfortable, Langley said, “just because it’s not what you’re used to wearing.”
But he said he didn’t mind wearing the outfit since it was an opportunity to celebrate the freedoms that Americans enjoy.
“I think it’s important to every American,” Langley said. “It’s important to realize how blessed we are to live in a free country.”
And there were things about the costume that Langley really liked.
“The hat is the best part,” he said.
Langley said a few people had come up to him and asked why he was dressed that way, which he said served the purpose of the project in starting conversations about the Constitution and raising awareness about the importance of the document.
Woolard said MACU uses different kinds of activities from year to year to observe Constitution Week, including sometimes having a guest speaker or other special event to commemorate the occasion.
This year the university let the costumes do the talking — or at least get the talking started.
“It’s been a while since we did the costumes,” Woolard said, explaining that they were made by staff members in 1776 to celebrate the American Bicentennial and were worn by students who served as waiters and waitresses that year at the Bicentennial-themed Junior-Senior Banquet.
The costumes have been kept in storage in the 45 years since they made their debut, and every few years they are brought back into service for some occasion.
Woolard said he talked to students in his classes Wednesday about the Constitution. But he also wanted the students themselves to talk about the Constitution on their own terms, he said.
“It’s good to have peer to peer conversation instead of it all being done top-down,” Woolard said.
So the costumes were introduced this year as a way to encourage students to talk to each other about the Constitution and the kind of government it makes possible.
For Amber Goodyear, a senior from Elizabeth City, donning a costume was a familiar activity. She is active in Princesses on a Mission, a nonprofit that uses princess costumes to raise money and awareness in dealing with childhood diseases.
“Very much so,” Goodyear replied when asked if she had received a lot of questions about her Colonial attire.
She said the questions about her costume offered her a good opportunity to talk to other students about the rights Americans enjoy and the responsibilities of citizenship.
Marco Cantera, a freshman, said he heard about the costume opportunity from a friend on campus and thought it sounded like a good way to jumpstart his first year of college.
“I might as well have some fun,” Cantera said.
He said the costume was a bit warm for the weather — especially with the jacket — but he found it an effective conversation starter.
“They asked me what I was wearing and I told them it was for Constitution Day,” Cantera said.
Cantera said he appreciates the rights that are ensured under the Constitution, including freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
John Maurice, MACU’s interim president, walked around the campus Wednesday handing out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution.
James Hoffman, a freshman from Virginia Beach, Va., owns his own costume as a re-enactor with the 7th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. He said during the spring and fall seasons he probably does a re-enactment every other weekend.
Hoffman said he had worn the uniform for a self-introduction speech a couple of weeks ago and Woolard asked if he would participate in the Constitution Week costume day. He said he was glad to do it because he thought it was a great way to promote an understanding and appreciation of the Constitution.
The national observance of Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week was started by the Daughters of the American Revolution and became a federally recognized commemoration by action of Congress in 1956.
According to the DAR, the purposes of Constitution Week are to:
— Emphasize citizens' responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution
— Inform people that the Constitution is the basis for America's great heritage and the foundation for our way of life
— Encourage the study of the historical events which led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787.