HARTFORD – Assumption School in Manchester was among three local schools to participate in the Connecticut Bar Association 2014 Law Day Ceremony on May 1. Held at the Connecticut Appellate Court in Hartford, the ceremony provided reflections on American democracy and focused on the history and continuing struggle for voting rights.
The program was structured as a model press conference. Adult speakers, dressed in period costumes, presented each character’s perspectives on the voting rights issues of their era. The roles of notable historic individuals, including Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Dorr, Alice Paul and John Lewis, were played by attorneys, a high school teacher and a judge.
Students from Assumption School, Litchfield Montessori Middle School in Northfield and Westfield Academy in West Hartford acted as the press corps. The middle-school student reporters listened intently and asked questions to challenge or clarify speakers’ positions on voting rights issues of property ownership, poll taxes, gender or race. Later, students would return to their schools to write newspaper articles recounting the press conference.
Matthew D. Gordon, an attorney who served as moderator for the ceremony, said he hoped that the press conference would “encourage full and vibrant dialogue regarding voting rights in America” and “underscore the true strength of the right to vote.”
“The issue of voting rights, who can vote and under what circumstances, has been an issue confronting our country since its inception,” he said. “While women, minorities and poor people technically have the right to vote, we must still continue to question whether the right to vote is being exercised freely and without restrictions.”
Other members of the Connecticut Bar Association also spoke to students and emphasized the importance of voting rights.
“The right to vote is the very core of government by the people,” said Kimberly Knox, president of the Connecticut Bar Association. “Many have fought for the right to vote, for equal access to the right and [for] the right to be protected and exercised.”
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill presented citations to student reporters and their teachers for participating in the event, which required the students to research characters and issues and to develop and deliver questions for the press conference.
Pamela Langelier, who teaches seventh grade at Assumption School, was recognized, along with students Juanita Asapokhai, Breonna Bouthot, Patricia Jones, Hannah Mitchell, Nicholas Villandry and Jordan Wells.
In closing remarks, Chief Appellate Court Judge Alexandra Davis DiPentima called the Law Day Ceremony “a wonderful opportunity to bring the Connecticut Bar Association and the public together to celebrate the rule of law in our country.”
She commended all of the students for their interest in the role of government and for their participation in civics activities.