Center for Civic Engagement

OU hosts Constitution Café

Troy Historical Society program visits Oakland Center with Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack as special guest contributor

constitution, bridget mccormack, michigan supreme court, guest lecture, CCE, Troy Historic Village

icon of a calendarSeptember 24, 2019

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OU hosts Constitution Café
The Troy Historical Society and Oakland University held a special joint Constitution Café at the Oakland Center on Sept. 24. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget McCormack was a guest contributor to the discussion led by facilitator John Kulesz on the Constitution as a guide for the judiciary.

What is a judge? Are judges experts on the Constitution? What does it take to be an expert on the Constitution?

These were just a few of the questions that were raised during a special “Constitution Café” held Sept. 24 at the Oakland Center on the campus of Oakland University.

The event, hosted by Oakland University and the Troy Historical Society, also featured Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, who joined several OU students and Troy community members for a discussion on the Constitution as a guide for the judiciary.

“I wish we were doing this in every community,” said McCormack, who joined the Michigan Supreme Court in January 2013, and became Chief Justice in January 2019. “The discussion, going back and forth with each other, and hearing different points of view — I thought it was wonderful.”

Led by Troy resident and attorney John Kulesz, the discussion touched on several topics related to the Constitution, including whether non-lawyers should serve on the Supreme Court, whether the Constitution can ever be interpreted correctly, mandatory voting requirements, and how judges use the Constitution as a guide in the courtroom.

“We hope we gave the students something to think about,” Kulesz said. “I want them to see the Constitution in a way they haven’t before, and to be able to walk away and continue this discussion with other people.”

Loraine Campbell, executive director of the Troy Historic Village, said that Constitution Cafes were created to provide an opportunity for people to gather and “engage in civil civics conversations.”

“It started over coffee with John Kulesz about five years ago,” she said. “John had read a book by Christopher Phillips, Socrates Café, about group discussions on a question based on the Socratic method of inquiry. I said ‘we should do something like that,’ and he said ‘we should do it on the Constitution.’ We wrote a grant to the Oakland County Bar Association, thinking we would do this for a year — and here we are in year four.”

Constitution Cafes are held regularly on the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. at the Old Troy Church inside the Troy Historic Village. The idea of hosting a Constitution Café at Oakland University came about after U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin hosted at town hall at OU in March.

“At the town hall, I was approached by Loraine Campbell, who told me about a program that they do at the Troy Historic Village called Constitution Cafes,” said David Dulio, a professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Center for Civic Engagement at OU. “She asked if we would host one in the fall, and we jumped at the chance. It’s a great opportunity to bring the community and the campus together. Our students can learn from the community members, and the community members can learn from our students. I think it’s a great thing to do.”

Dulio said he hopes the students who participated in the Constitution Café on Sept. 24 will walk away with a better understanding of the Constitution and its role in what judges do.

“I hope the students found themselves challenged,” he said. “There are a lot of different opportunities for students to come at information in a different way than they have before, and the same goes for the folks from Troy. I hope they’ve learned to think about things in a way that they haven’t in the past.”

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