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Kemp: Constitution was ‘experiment in democracy’

Photo credit: Lyon College

Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court John Dan Kemp advised Lyon students not to take their freedoms for granted.

Kemp visited the College on Sept. 17 to celebrate Constitution Day, discussing the history of the Constitution and how it related to his experience working in the judicial branch. Reflecting on a recent 9/11-centered event, Kemp said he was reminded that most college students either were not born or were too young to remember the hijackings.

“Those of us who are older experienced that, and we can remember where we were. For everyone else, 9/11 is just history,” he said.

“The same is true for our constitution. It’s history. The only thing we’ve lived through is the benefits of that constitution that we sometimes take for granted.”

While these freedoms are now classified as inalienable rights, they were not recognized before the Constitution was drafted. When the U.S. was under the influence of the British Crown and King George II, the king appointed judges, the judges set the taxes, and the colonies paid without representation.

“Our constitution criticized King George III for making judges dependent on his will alone,” Kemp said. “[Now] Judges in Arkansas are elected… They are able to rule fairly without fear of being removed from office for a decision the king disagrees with.”

Kemp continued, “I think it’s the best way to appoint judges. What I appreciated most when I ran for Chief Justice was that when I would visit people they were not too shy to tell me the problems they had with the court system … some of those problems I could address and try to correct.”

None of that would be possible without the Constitution, he said.

“It’s hard to conceptualize a time before the constitution was written. We were an experiment in democracy.”

Kemp brought up the importance of jury pools, encouraging students to take advantage of the freedoms granted by the Constitution.

“Aside from serving in the military, jury duty, and voting are the most patriotic things one can do,” Kemp said.

“This is an important day to celebrate the history of our Constitution and what it means for our republic,” said Lyon President W. Joseph King.