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Friday was a day of firsts for me: My first time in a courtroom and my first time singing “Happy Birthday” to the Constitution.
Yes, that’s right. I attended a birthday party for the supreme law of the United States.
Paul McGreal, dean of the School of Law, hosted the celebration in the Mathias H. Heck courtroom at Keller Hall. McGreal kicked off the event by informing his audience that although some people argue the Constitution’s birth dates back to 1787, the year it was written, he preferred to recognize 1789, the year it went into effect.
“I want to err on the side of youth,” he joked.
After McGreal’s introduction, he led the audience through a resounding version of “Happy Birthday” directed toward the red, white and blue cake in the front of the courtroom. While the candles flickered, McGreal spoke to the audience about the legacy of former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun.
During his 34-year tenure, Blackmun kept a thorough collection of his correspondence, including letters sent to different justices and the notes they passed to each other while on the bench.
McGreal used Blackmun’s archives to walk his audience through the typical proceedings of a Supreme Court case, down to the memos the justices write their clerks.
After the lecture, McGreal invited the guests into the lobby of Keller Hall to enjoy the cake and celebrate Blackmun’s preservation of constitutional law.
“What makes this a treasure trove is that it’s easy access,” McGreal said. “It’s a phenomenal resource.”