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Fourth Circuit Recognizes Constitution Day with Program Celebrating Essay Contest Winners

September 28, 2017
Constitution Day - Essay WinnersOn September 14, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recognized Constitution Day with a program at the Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Courthouse in Richmond, Virginia which celebrated the winners of the 2017 Fourth Circuit Essay Contest. Students in grades 9 through 12 throughout the five states within the circuit submitted essays on this year's theme, Access to the Justice. They were asked to share their thoughts on the question: "What does access to justice mean to you and how do the Constitution and Bill of Rights enable this access?" Constitution Day, which falls on September 17, is the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

The first-place winner, Rebecca Thompson, received a $2,000 prize for her essay, "Providing Access to Justice for America's Poor." A rising senior at Cecil D. Hylton Senior High School, Woodbridge, Virginia, Rebecca was joined by her mother, Esther Ajao; her uncle, Isaac Parker, and her cousin Betsy Agyeman.

Constitution Day - Chief Judge Gregory & Rebecca Thompson Constitution Day - Thompson family

The second-place winner, David Okon Edimo, received a $1,500 prize for his essay, "Due Process: The Great Constitutional Equalizer."  A recent graduate of Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, David was joined by his mother and father, Mary and Okon Edimo. 

Constitution Day - David Edimo Constitution Day - Edimo family

Chief Judge Gregory also recognized the third-place winner and recipient of a $1,000 award, John Ford, a rising senior at Marvin Ridge High School, Waxhaw, North Carolina.

Chief Judge Gregory remarked on the importance of supporting the spirit of future generations, keeping them engaged in understanding the power, purpose and principles of the Constitution as a living and breathing document.

He shared the story of the chair decorated at the top with a gilded half-sun on a horizon in which President George Washington sat while presiding over the Constitutional Convention. At the conclusion of the convention, Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said that he "looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun."

Thanking the students for their essays and scholarship, Chief Judge Gregory stated, "I don’t have the benefit of Washington's chair…but I know that today, indeed, that was a rising sun. Thank you so much for what you represent for our nation, for our youth, for our future."

Watch the video of the ceremony at this link: Constitution Day Program Video

Read the winning essays at this link: Constitution Day Program Brochure