State Rep. Kevin Brooks spoke on the nation’s government and Constitution in a special presentation at Cleveland State Community College Tuesday in recognition of Constitution Day.
“When I read back over the Constitution, I am amazed at the foresight of our forefathers to set up a system that has stood the test of time for more than 200 years,” Brooks began. “I am even more amazed when I consider how close this country came to not having the Constitution at all.”
Brooks was referring to the Newburgh Conspiracy. Soldiers from the Continental Army were furious when they realized the Continental Congress would be unable to pay their salary and pensions. They had fought hard for the colonies’ independence from Great Britain and wanted their compensation. An anonymous letter was passed around the camp urging the soldiers to form a military coup.
According to history, Gen. George Washington rode out unannounced to address his men. He encouraged them to re-evaluate their decision. As he took out a pair of spectacles, he noticed the shocked looks on the soldiers faces. Washington famously explained, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.”
The men unanimously voted to support the actions of Congress after seeing the sacrifices Washington had made.
“In every generation since the nation’s founding, Americans have come together to symbolize the moral fortitude, resolve, strength and hope for all who believe in freedom and democratic values,” Brooks explained to the gathered students.
Approximately 226 years ago delegates from the colonies made their way to Philadelphia. The men gathered at the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House on May 25 for what is now known as the Constitutional Convention. The Constitution was signed almost four months later on Sept. 17, 1787 by 39 delegates.
Brooks said his experience in politics has made him appreciate a different aspect of the historic event. He is most impressed by how a group of men from a variety of backgrounds could come together and agree on the statutes set forth in the Constitution.
“When our party became the majority, I naively thought we were all going to agree on everything ... we almost agree on nothing,” Brooks said.
He explained he had much to learn upon being sworn in as a state representative six years ago. He learned very quickly what was good for Cleveland was not necessarily good for other areas.
Brooks expressed his desire to see additional community members run for the chance to represent District 24. A seed to join politics and make a difference was planted in Brooks’ life as a high school student by then-U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.). His goal is to plant the same seed in someone else’s life.
He reiterated the importance of knowing America’s history whether entering politics or not.
“Although it has been said countless times, by folks much smarter than I, it is indeed still true,” Brooks said. “If we do not study and learn from and research and glean from where we have been, we will never know where we are going in the future. We must not forget our past.”
CSCC Associate Professor of History Bryan Reed thanked Brooks for his time.
“Each September the Cleveland State History department hosts an event to remind students of the path taken by the founders to preserve a union of the states and secure the freedoms of the people,” Reed explained. “We appreciate Rep. Brooks’ willingness to take time out of his schedule to share with our students on the fundamental principles in the Constitution.”