“Laws of Liberty & Love,” A Constitution Day Lecture By Dr. John Armstrong
In celebration of Constitution Day, Dr. John Armstrong, Willis J. Smith Professor of Philosophy and director of the Honors Program, spoke on the laws of liberty and love and how each was formative in the creation of the United States Constitution.
“This is the law of love; it is a rule for both action and passion,” said Armstrong. “Jesus taught that our love should be perfect like the Father’s–a love that extends to everyone.”
“Going further, Jesus commanded that we should love as he did, making his love the standard,” continued Armstrong. “In latter-day revelation, the Lord said that ‘the laws and constitution of the people…should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh.’ God loves the universe and all its parts, and desires that we follow his law.”
Speaking on the making and history of the Constitution, which was ratified in 1788, Armstrong shared how the nation’s previous experiences in creating individual state constitutions during the Revolutionary War, the growing frustrations with state legislatures and the uneven and misuse of power, and Founding Father James Madison’s scholarly study of other ancient governments and organizations prepared the people of the United States for the creation of this foundational document.
Sharing a letter written by Madison, one of the main architects of the Constitution, to Thomas Jefferson, Armstrong spoke on Madison’s reflection on the mindset of those creating the country’s government, and how the shared goal of cherishing and preserving the United States allowed them to forge a new government when it was believed impossible.
“The creative energy that produced the Constitution is akin to what drives all creative endeavors. A desire to build something. To see order emerge,” said Armstrong. “Madison told Jefferson that it is impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.”
Armstrong outlined Madison’s scholarly preparation that led to the creation of the Constitution, and how Madison studied previous governments, such as the Lycian and the Germanic, to understand what had worked in the past and what had not. Using that knowledge, Madison and other delegates were able to compromise and collaborate in the creation of a constitution tailored to the United States and its people.
Following Dr. Armstrong’s speech, the event opened to the audience for a Q&A session. Additionally, students Julia Evans, Haislee Hill, and Michelle Rasmussen performed “The Preamble,” from Schoolhouse Rock! and the event concluded with the campus community singing the University anthem, “Love One Another.” This lecture was the first University-wide gathering in the Knight Arena since the new flooring was installed.
Open to all students, the Southern Virginia University Honors Program strives for higher, continuous learning by providing rigorous and engaging honors courses and encourages students to love one another and lift those around them.