FAU Boca celebrates Constitution Day with Competitions, Colors, and Conversations


Sept. 17 is Constitution Day. Also know as Citizenship Day, it honors the date the constitution was signed in 1787. FAU marked the occasion with a series of constitution themed events and lectures during the week.

Tuesday, Sept. 16 featured the Constitution Brain Bowl, a team-based trivia competition where students competed for a $300 prize.


The event was hosted by  journalist and political consultant Craig Agranoff and political science professor Kevin Wagner. The Brain Bowl was held in the Student Government House Chambers and officiated by judge elect Samantha Schosberg Feuer.

This year’s competition was between four five-person teams: the Freedom Fighters, Team America, Team Liberty and the unfortunately named Kevin is in the Bathroom.

“You shouldn’t have gone to the bathroom,” quipped Agranoff.

Once Agranoff delivered the constitution related questions, teams were given a limited amount of time to agree upon one answer, written on a sheet of legal paper. Wagner played Jeopardy music from his phone while teams deliberated. Answers were evaluated by Judge Feuer, who consulted her pocket constitution.

“It’s a good thing my seven year old put this in my bag this morning,” said Feuer.

The competition was won by Team America, which consisted of SG members Thomas DeMaio, Daniel Horn, William McElligott, Robert Rouse and Christopher Ferreira.

While the Brain Bowl got things off to an early start Tuesday afternoon, the celebration began in earnest on Wednesday.

The Constitution Day opening ceremonies took place in Democracy Plaza behind the Culture and Society Building. The opening was initiated by Jack Miller, director of the Jack Miller Forum, who stressed the importance of the constitution in modern government.

The ROTC’s presentation of colors followed, led by Cadet Nick Knight with Sam Smith, Joe Fitzpatrick, Thierry Beaufrere and Marcus Rivero. Christopher Santanelli sang the national anthem.

Constitution Day continued with a guest lecture from State Attorney Dave Aronberg and a panel discussion on the First Amendment. Attendees of the lecture were given a pocket-sized copy containing the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

“I have a copy of the Constitution in my briefcase at all times,” said Aronberg, noting the importance of understanding the document and how it relates to everyday life.

Aronberg’s speech, titled “Citizens United: Free Speech and American Politics,” centered around the 2010 Supreme Court ruling for Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Corporations were granted the same  First Amendment rights as individuals, in a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court in favor of Citizens United.

Because of the decision, unions and corporations, whether for-profit or non-profit, can now spend as much as they want on independent contributions to political entities while still being unable to contribute directly to candidates.

“I have a great deal of contempt for the majority opinion … and the best way to change the system is to get into the system, but Congress will never change this as long as they benefit from it,” Aronberg said.

In his free time, Aronberg teaches a Constitutional Law class at Palm Beach State College. He finds it hard to talk about the First Amendment without discussing the Citizens United ruling.

The impact of this decision can be seen in current campaign commercials regarding the gubernatorial election between current governor Rick Scott and opponent Charlie Crist. The Citizens United ruling also allows corporations the right to take to the airwaves with their political messages.


“The members of the Supreme Court need to get out more … and by get out more, I mean stay in and watch TV around election time,” said Aronberg.

Aronberg’s speech was followed by a panel discussion regarding First Amendment rights, the Digital Age and the issue of campaign funding. The panel consisted of Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino, Sun Sentinel political writer Anthony Mann and FAU political science professors Kevin Wagner and Tim Lenz.

Cerabino avoided taking sides on the Citizens issue and discussed the issues of electioneering using the media. He cited a 1962 case where a newspaper editor was jailed for printing an endorsement of candidates on Election Day, something that the Palm Beach Post does annually.

“The idea that political speech should be restricted before an election goes contrary to common sense, as that’s when people need it most in order to make up their minds,” he said.

Mann spoke next, highlighting the issue of anonymous funding and why it becomes a problem when the general public does not know where corporations are getting their funding from.

He also spoke about how the Digital Age is leading to sites for “perpetual news” in which advertising money is given to websites to attack opposing candidates, something that the mainstream media does not do.

In regards to regulating campaign spending, he stated that “any attempt to regulate generally doesn’t work because it will come up again in another issue.”

FAU political science professor Tim Lenz offered his own view of the ruling by reminding the audience that the Supreme Court generally does not know about elections and campaigning, meaning that they may not understand the impact of their decision.

He worries about legislation heading toward removing the limits of campaign funding.

“If this was NASCAR, it would be like removing the restrictor plates,” he said, referring to the plates that limit the engine’s power in the cars.

Lastly, Kevin Wagner expressed the importance of TV in election races, stating his belief that one cannot win without television. He also called for full disclosure of who is donating money in order to combat corruption.

He pointed out that funding always has purpose. “Very few people give you thousands of dollars out of the kindness of their heart,” he stated.

Audience members were given the opportunity to question the panelists and Aronberg about the topics discussed and anything else regarding politics.

One student asked whether there are more limitations for women in politics, and how they can overcome the barriers to finance a run for office. In response, Wagner stated his belief that women are entering a “Golden Age” in campaigning and raising money for office and that many limitations for women in politics are going away.

According to Aronberg, “Women are seen as more honest and trustworthy by voters.”

Mann offers a differing opinion, stating that women are still underrepresented in the corporate world along with the political world. As a political writer, he sees a difference in how women are judged as opposed to men when in the political arena.

Each of the panelists encouraged audience members to be skeptical of what they read online, and to ensure that they work harder to find the truth in reporting. Cerabino noted that many people rely on getting their news from places like The Colbert Report, which are typically entertainment platforms.

Constitution Day served as an eye-opening lecture for students that did not know much about politics or campaigning and the effect it has upon American society as a whole. Much of the audience left feeling much more enlightened about the role money and influence plays in the political arena.

— Jillian Melero contributed to the reporting of this story