Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown hosted Andrew “Andy” Arnold’s presentation and open forum discussion on the Constitution on July 2.
Arnold, the Kutztown University History Department Chair, discussed the history of the Constitution, its context and the meaning behind it. The lecture was guided by the newly released 2nd edition of his book “A Pocket Guide to the U.S. Constitution: What Every American Needs to Know.”
“Lawyers and constitutional scholars tend to complicate [the Constitution] beyond it needs to be. In the end, it’s plain language and it’s available to everybody,” said Arnold. “This is a very low cost, simple introduction to the text of the Constitution… and from there people can dig in as deeply as they want to.”
Arnold’s primary inspiration for creating this pocket guide was so that his students could better interpret our nation’s blueprint.
“Constitutional textbooks tend to be multi-volume, they tend to be thousands of pages long, they tend to go into impossible levels of detail,” said Arnold. “I wanted a simple starting point for my students so that they could start with simple understanding and then complicate it themselves by seeking out articles online.”
Arnold has a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a bachelor’s from Hampshire College. His fields of expertise are labor history, Constitutional history and Pennsylvania history. He teaches multiple classes at KU including, but not limited to, Constitutional History of the U.S., Work and Workers in American History and History of the Bill of Rights.
“You want people to feel like they own the Constitution and you want them to feel like they’re part of a community. One of the rare things about Kutztown is that we have that,” said Arnold.
Matthew Williams, co-owner of Firefly Bookstore, offers these featured events to build a sense of community within Kutztown. He compared this goal to the role historical tavern’s took back when the Constitution was being written.
“Taverns were a meeting place where everyone gathered and talked. Book stores play a similar role, we are a natural place for people to gather, talk, and share ideas,” said Williams.
He explained how residents, students and other members of the community do not often have the opportunity to come together for discussion and hopes these events can change that.
“Firefly is the largest bookstore between Harrisburg and Manhattan and they open it up as a discussion forum,” said Arnold. “People come out and they are passionate and they want to talk about their country, they want to talk about their ideas.”
The lecture was open-ended encouraging attendees to take part in the discussion and ask questions regarding Constitutional history. During the lecture, Arnold asked the audience to define the Constitution using just one word. Words offered included order, equality, stuck, change, and interpretation, making it evident that there were mixed ideas regarding the document.
During the Q&A portion at the end of the event, the majority of questions asked referenced modern political issues and the role the Constitution plays within them. These political issues included the unequal distribution of wealth and 1 percent in the U.S., 2nd Amendment rights, lobbyists and corporate identity.
Upcoming events at Firefly include a book signing and presentation of Rachel Yoder’s newly released, bilingual book “Davey Applebutter” and a presentation by author and award-winning nature photographer Kathy M. Miller titled “Behind the Lens: Photography Tips and Stories from the Field.” Miller is the author of the Chippy Chipmunk books.
Williams and Rebecca Laincz own Firefly Bookstore hope to continue breaking barriers within the community. For more information on upcoming events, visit www.fireflybookstore.com. Arnold’s book is available for purchase at Firefly.