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Dreyfuss delivers Constitution Day lecture

By Staff | Sep 23, 2011

Chronicle photo by Kelly Cambrel Richard Dreyfuss gave Constitution Day address, Saturday Sept. 17. Constitution Day has been celebrated at Shepherd University since it was established in 2005. (Chronicle photo by Kelly Cambrel)

Actor Richard Dreyfuss addressed members of the community on Saturday evening for Shepherd University’s Constitution Day lecture.

“I am speaking for my nation,” he said.

He spoke on the topic “The Constitutional Convention and the Miracle of Democracy” and fielded questions from the audience.

The nearly hour-long speech centered on the importance of civic engagement and education.

“Civics is gone,” he said

Dreyfuss stressed the need for immediate action in the face of what he feels is a national crisis in education.

“We are standing at a crossroads,” he said.

Dreyfuss spoke as part of his work with the Dreyfuss Initiative, an educational initiative designed to promote and improve the instruction of civics in schools.

“If our society is a river, we look to the headwaters, our children,” Dreyfuss said.

According the Dreyfuss, American virtues face possible extinction if strides aren’t made to educate the young.

“We must teach these civic principles or say goodbye to the society we hold dear … We should give the young the tools they need to be sovereigns.”

The Dreyfuss Initiative is in the process of founding a center dedicated to the research of enlightenment era theory at the historic residence of Charles Washington in Charles Town, known as Happy Retreat.

Dreyfuss called West Virginia “the spirit of the U.S. in miniature,” reflecting on West Virginia’s history of self-determination.

When asked how to combat the unique problems encountered by rural schools, Dreyfuss emphasized the possible advantages of better technology in schools.

He explained that part of the Dreyfuss Initiative’s mission is to provide better resources for schools.

Dreyfuss concluded his speech with a plea on behalf of the country.

“We need your help,” he said.

Dreyfuss said he considers special interest groups the biggest threat to democracy.

He questioned how a diminishing educational system directly impacts America’s rank as a world leader.

“Maybe this American exceptionalism thing is silly … like this education we’re giving our children.”

Dreyfuss urged citizens to rally in support of the U.S., which he called “a unique gift to mankind.”

“We will lose this country,” he said. “It needs your love.”