This past Monday I was honored to speak to students at Man High School on what was designated statewide as "Constitution Day." As part of a judicial civic education program of the West Virginia Supreme Court, active and retired Supreme Court justices, circuit judges, family court judges and magistrates volunteered to visit various schools across West Virginia as part of what is called the "Robes to Schools" program.
The late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who was truly known as a Constitutional expert, in 2005 added an amendment to a federal appropriations bill requiring all schools that receive federal funds to teach students about the U.S. Constitution every September 17th, which is the day the Constitution was signed in 1787. The purpose of judicial officers speaking or reading to students is really just to enhance the curriculum the students already have. And, from what I've been told, government and other civics related topics could not be taught any better than longtime Man High instructor, Karen Arms, who along with Principal Patricia English, were fine hosts for the special day.
I do not profess to be an expert on the Constitution of the United States, which, by the way, was signed by Benjamin Franklin's best friend, Hugh Williamson. Anyway, I figure the mixture of mostly 12th graders I addressed was counting on some boring breakdown of how the Constitution was written. With few prepared notes, it was my intent to emphasize the many rights that we, as Americans, take for granted. Freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and the right to bear arms were addressed, as well as the right to vote amendment for African-Americans, and the amendment that gave women the right to vote.
There was a show of hands when I asked if anyone could name the three branches of American government, as well as when I queried a few other Constitution related questions. However, when I asked how many students were aware of the North Korean situation, nearly every person held up a hand. After comparing the Korean dictatorship to American government and our freedoms, I mentioned my profession and then asked the very attentive students how many of them knew someone who had overdosed using drugs. I was startled to see at least a two-thirds showing of hands.
In an effort to emphasize the importance of our valued rights, we all should think of our dark American past when children as young as eight were allowed to work in U.S. factories and some (not much older) even labored in our coal mines. We should realize that until 1920 women in most states could not vote, serve on juries, or sue for anything in court. Nor should we forget that African-Americans were once sold on auction blocks like cattle until things changed with the passing of the 13th amendment to the Constitution.
The very next day after I spoke with the students, United Press International reported in a story that women in North Korean prison camps are regularly raped and then executed. If the women become pregnant, they are often secretly executed. After giving birth, the report said women were not only executed, but their babies were then fed to the guard dogs.
And if that information isn't enough to make one appreciate our country's Constitutional rights, then I don't know what is.
Sometimes in order to keep students' attention and to stir their interest in history, which some may not normally care about, one has to throw a firecracker into the fire, so to speak. Such was the case when I asked if anyone knew what the Founding Fathers were doing much of the colonial times when the 55 delegates were meeting to create the Constitution. After no response from the students, I simply said: "They were drinking beer."
History should reflect the truth and most school books used in history teaching leave out a few things that are later found out in college to be interesting facts. The truth is that during colonial times, Americans drank more alcohol than during any other era. Beer, cider, wine, rum and different types of punches were had for breakfast, lunch and dinner, according to reported articles from that time period. In fact, according to a bill preserved from that evening, our 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, just two days before they signed off on the Constitution, met at a tavern and consumed over 100 bottles of wine, not to mention several bottles of whiskey, hard cider, beer, and seven bowls of "alcoholic punch;"-all of which were listed on the tavern bill.
Because of the sanitary standards of the day, it was generally considered that water was bad for a person's health. Beer consumption especially was seen as a healthy substitute for water and was considered as a "food", which also showed social status, according to records of the time. Only the destitute were said to drink water. In fact, Washington, Jefferson and Franklin all brewed or distilled their own alcoholic beverages.
Now, I'm not trying to shed bad light on our tremendous Founding Fathers who formed what is now the greatest country in the world. And I'm not calling the signers of the Constitution alcoholics, either. After all, that word (alcoholic) had not been created yet. Here are a few quotes from some of our former leaders that should serve to back up this writing.
"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."-Ben Franklin.
"Wine is necessary for life."-Thomas Jefferson.
"My manner of living is plain....a glass of wine and a bit of mutton."-George Washington.
"In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria." -Ben Franklin.
BITS and PIECES:
I plan on doing several upcoming stories of interest; including a complete updated listing of every community in Logan County and how those places received their namesI also plan a story that lists numerous Logan Countians who became hugely successful in life, like former Man area residents Lionel Taylor and Charlie Cowan, both of whom were professional football stars...it seems there are all types of successful connections to Logan County on this planet and most of them no longer live here, but still refer to our county as homethere were many war heroes with Logan County connections, including my own father, but former Board of Education member Bob Wolfe and his son, attorney Steven Wolfe, are two guys that can boast that Bob's grandfather, Acker Wolfe, was cited for leading the first daylight aerial bombing attack on Berlin, Germany, March 4, 1944Wolfe served as a First Lieutenant and retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving 28 years in the 95th Bomb Squadronhe received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and many other medals too numerous to namethe recent death of former Logan County teacher, Eugene Washington, brings back many memories for me and many others who may have known Mr. Washingtonfor me, I remember a Whitman Creeker named Kathy Bokkon and myself, as 8th graders, being allowed to take a typing class with the 9th graders and Washington was our teachernot only was he lightning fast on the typewriter, but he also yielded a mighty quick paddleanother name that some may recall is that of Susie FortunaSusie was viciously murdered in 1980 and her body left in the Hatfield Cemetery at Sarah Annthe true story behind her death has never been toldyes, you guessed right, Susie's story is on my agenda for this newspaper and will be told in full, prior to a new series of Mamie Thurman articles that also will be relayed on a weekly basis; after all, Halloween is not that far awayDID YOU KNOW that Kroger pharmacies have been making Naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medicine, available without a prescription?typically sold as a nasal spray, I hate to think our society has come to the point where every household should keep Naloxone on hand to keep a family member or someone else from dyingspeaking of Kroger stores, I recently traveled to Elkview and visited that new store which reopened after a bridge was replaced to the mall there following last year's terrible floodthe store's flooring and lighting were stupendous, and I've noticed that the Kroger in Boone County is getting a much needed faceliftas for the local Kroger store at Mt. Gay, which I frequent, it could use a complete makeover, toothe only thing that bothers me about our Mt. Gay location is that it sells the Charleston Gazette newspaper, but does not offer our local newspaper, The Bannermeanwhile, the selling of The Banner at Valley Market (as well as ham salad) has long been a draw for the storewhile on the subject of businesses, the former Napier's Exxon on the Holden Road is going to be re-opened soon; more info on that will come laterI'm hearing that the Twin Branch Drag Strip may be opened for drag racing as early as next Marchreaders may recall that it was built on former Massey Coal Co. mining property and is located just off Corridor G in Mingo County
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into utter darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." - Bible, Daniel 8:12CLOSING NOTE: Hard headed Democrats will vote against the upcoming road bond issue just to get back at Jim justice. Meanwhile, most Republicans will vote against it because they incorrectly believe it will raise taxes. After much thought, I probably will vote for it since the DMV fees and gas taxes are already taking effect, and if the bond fails, I worry what the raised taxes will be wasted upon if the bond fails to pass. Meanwhile, Gov. Justice's ride to Logan the other day to promote the bond passage was smooth due to new paving on Corridor "G", which was a result of the Earl Ray Tomblin administration. Remember to vote, folks.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing columnist and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He is currently serving as a magistrate for Logan County.