Congressman Jim Himes Addresses Constitution Day

News Story: September 22, 2009

Rep. Jim Himes, in office less than a year, discussed the United States Constitution from the perspective of a freshman member of Congress at

Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4, at left) was the featured speaker during SHU's Constitution Day commemoration. At right is Dr. Gary Rose of SHU's Government & Politics Department.

Sacred Heart University’s fifth annual celebration of Constitution Day. The Congressman had flown in from Washington and opened with reassuring news from the Capital. The House of Representatives had successfully considered legislation designed to expand student loan accessibility.

Born in Lima, Peru, to American parents, Mr. Himes is a former investment banker from Greenwich, Connecticut. He spoke to an audience largely made up of Sacred Heart students in University Commons and entertained questions on a wide variety of subjects.

Constitution Day is a federally mandated observance in all colleges that accept federal money. It is celebrated on September 17 because it was on that day in 1787 that the Framers ratified the charter that would govern the country ever since. Himes noted that there was little precedent for such a bold experiment in governance: the world of the 18th century was ruled by kings and emperors, and even those who held authority in Britain’s American colonies were themselves privileged white men.

From left, Himes was greeted by students Thomas Sarro, Scott Romano and Max-Anne Fuhlbrugge upon his arrival.

The Constitution insisted that government was established to protect what the Declaration of Independence had called unalienable rights. At the time it was approved, he explained, even the Framers understood that self-government meant most people would be excluded. Neither women nor people of color were yet to be a part of the process, for example. Himes pointed out that as a living document, the Constitution has been subject to changes and will continue to be in the future.

The Fourth District Congressman described the set-up of Congress as evidence of genius. The House of Representatives, subject to re-election every two years, was intended to represent the people in a direct and dramatic way. In contrast, Senators are elected every six years, so they can afford to think things through with a little more deliberateness and an eye to history.

Mr. Himes touched on a number of sensitive subjects in his remarks and the many thoughtful questions that followed. These included healthcare reform, immigration issues, the right to declare and pursue war, and the funding of elections. He conceded, for example, that despite whatever talents he might have brought to the contest, his election to Congress depended, to a large extent, on his ability to raise $4 million. He asserted that this ends up limiting access to public service to a privileged few while giving well connected special interests undue influence.

Congressman Himes stayed on to meet many of the students present and promised to return to the University for future events.