Constitution Day: James Otis Lecture Reflection

By Kevin Agostinelli, Class of 2015 – Sturgis East 
Trip to Fanueil Hall

Sturgis Students Visit Fanueil Hall
Constitution Day – September 17

My recent school trip to Boston to attend the James Otis Lecture Series on September 17 was definitely one to remember. That Monday morning, I was one of ten classmates – five from Sturgis East and five from Sturgis West – who were nominated by our freshman-year history teachers to experience not only the lecture series next to Faneuil Hall but also a neat tour of the battleground of the Boston school desegregation battles in the 1970s. Accompanied by my sophomore history teacher Mr. Hyer and Sturgis West history teacher Mr. Hillebrand, my classmates and I learned so much about the “behind the scenes” of the ratification of the Constitution as well as the history of Boston Public Schools.

Our first portion of the trip was the guided tour of the area around South Boston High School. As we walked around the parks and houses in one of the nicest parts of Boston, Mr. Hyer and Mr. Hillebrand talked to us about the desegregation issues that reached their peak in the 1970s. At that time, politician Louise Day Hicks founded the organization ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights) to oppose the federal court order that Boston Public Schools must take part in “desegregation busing.” This was the practice of assigning and transporting students to schools with the intent being to redress prior racial segregation of the school system or of the local demographics. In the case of South Boston, outrage over the desegregation soon escalated to constant protests and attacks on both the black students in “Southie” and the white students in Roxbury. I was astonished that I had never before learned about this public school battle in the 1970s, but it definitely gave me a different perspective on the Civil Rights battle in the north.

We next boarded the bus and made a quick stop at Freedom House in Roxbury, where the first push for equal rights in the Boston Public Schools began. Then we made our way to Faneuil Hall and were given the freedom to walk around Quincy Market for a while before the James Otis Lecture. I treated myself to a delicious sausage sandwich and watched an acrobatic performance in front of Quincy Market before entering the hall itself.

The hall was packed with high school students from all over Massachusetts, and I even recognized a few faces from our school’s local neighbor Barnstable High School. Before the lecture began I took the time to view the huge Constitution Convention painting behind the platform in the center of the hall, and this painting and the architecture made me feel like I could be sitting at a meeting during the Revolutionary war. When the lecture began, I listened in awe at the numerous accolades mentioned during the descriptions of the two speakers, Professor Pauline Maier and Professor Gordon Wood. They had written so many books on the Constitution and had won so many awards, namely the Pulitzer Prize given to one of Professor Wood’s books. As they started to discuss the background of the Constitution, I sat amazed at their breadth of knowledge and how much passion they had for this certain field of history. What I enjoyed about the lecture was that students were allowed to ask questions as well, which created an interesting and active discussion.

Two hours later, I left Faneuil Hall with much more knowledge and understanding about the Constitution and the Founding Fathers than I had upon entering the building. I have already tried to use what I learned to better understand the complexities of some Constitutional controversies that occur today. In all, my trip to Boston reinforced my passion for history and reinvigorated my aim to learn more about what has formed the present-day United States.

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