For Constitution Day, the Leadership and Service Council of the University of Alabama at Birmingham invited our Young Americans for Liberty chapter to participate in a scholarly debate with the College Democrats, College Republicans (who were unable to participate), and the Young Democratic Socialists to promote civil engagement and inform voting practices.
The discussion subject was on the matter of
"Is the Constitution a living document or must it be interpreted literally?"
Of course, we eagerly accepted this invitation, and I set to work preparing my very first formal debate presentation.
The planned questions ranged from those directly related to the topic at hand, such as "Under the Constitution, who has sovereign authority to govern?" and the proper necessity of amendments, to questions and responses on subjects such as marriage equality, hate speech, civil disobedience, and campaign financing. We also accepted questions from the audience, some solemn questions on the "trade-offs" of privacy and security, limitations on the right to bear arms, and the protocol for declaring war, and some more lighthearted and refreshing questions like "What's your least favorite amendment?"
The debate was a great opportunity to quote the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Frederic Bastiat, and Voltaire. While my opponents argued the Constitution to be a framework for legislation, we argued it to be a legal, confining contract on federal power. My opening response included:
Whereas the innate rights of a citizen end only where the rights of another begin, the role of governing rule is to be confined to protecting those innate rights through reasonable justice and common defense, by the Constitution.
Beyond that primary disagreement, it seems all three of us went into the debate with preconceived notions of the other's ideology and differences.