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Constitution Day 2020

Every year, Constitution Day marks the the ratification of of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. Although Independence Day and Presidents’ Day were marked as such for many years, it was not until 1940 that the seeds of a Constitution Day were planted. “I am an American Day” was celebrated on the third Sunday of May and celebrated American citizenship. The holiday quickly gained popularity across the United States and the date was changed to September 17 during the 1950s to better reflect the origins of American citizenship. The name of the day also became the simpler “Citizenship Day.”

It was not until 2004 that Congress designated September 17 as Constitution Day alongside the existing Citizenship Day. This designation required all public schools and government offices to hold educational programming to promote constitutional literacy. The Jack Miller Center honors this important date every year by funding educational lectures across the country. These lectures further the Center’s mission of civic literacy and encourage citizens to learn more about our country’s origins.

Below is a collection of resources featured for Constitution Day 2020. Browse these resources or jump from section to section by clicking the links below:

Campus Events

In 2020, 23+ campuses around the nation partnered with the Jack Miller Center to conduct Constitution Day events for students and the public. This day engages students in conversations about the role and meaning of the Constitution in American political life.

Visit JMC’s Constitution Day website >>

 

Talks, debates, and panels explore a wide variety of topics, including the current role of the Constitution, free speech, and constitutional theory. This year’s impressive lineup of keynotes includes Bradley Watson (Saint Vincent), Greg Weiner (Assumption), Vincent Phillip Muñoz (Notre Dame), Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Michael Zuckert (Notre Dame), Jeffrey Tulis (Texas-Austin), James Ceaser (UVA and JMC board member), and Nicholas Buccola (Linfield) among other notable speakers.

Learn about JMC Constitution Day events from previous years >>

 

2020 Constitution Day Events

 

University of Alaska - Anchorage


"American Politics: The New and the Old Normal" with Michael Barone, September 17

American University


"Free Speech on Campus: The First Amendment is Not Enough" with Jonathan Marks, September 17

Click here to attend >>

Arizona State University


"The Surprising History of Women's Suffrage" with Ellen Dubois, September 17

Click here to attend >>

Baylor University


"Tocqueville and the Constitution" with Dana Stauffer, September 17

Click here to learn more >>

Bellarmine University


“The Second Founding: An Introduction to the Fourteenth Amendment” with Ilan Wurman, September 19

Belmont Abbey College


"Hamilton: Beyond the Musical" with Bradford Wilson, September 17

Click here to attend >>

Christopher Newport University


"Should the Electoral College Be Reformed?" a debate with Allen Guelzo and Akhil Reed Amar, September 24

Click here to attend >>

Clemson University


"A Conversation in Honor of Constitution Day" with Yuval Levin, September 23

Click here to attend >>

University of Dallas


"Does the American Social Contract Have a Future?" with Gladden Pappin, September 20

Emory University


"Is the US Constitution Pro-slavery or Anti-slavery?" discussion groups with Ahmed Siddiqi and Judd Owen, September 1 and 3

Florida Atlantic University


"The Politics of Protest: The 1st Amendment and Free Expression" with Keith James, Christina Romelus, Scott Singer, and Kevin Wagner, September 17

Click here to attend >>

College of the Holy Cross


"Lincoln, the Founders, and the Rights of Human Nature" with Lucas Morel, September 17

University of Houston


"Limits of Liberalism during the American Founding: The 'Anti-Democratic' Thought of Jefferson and Adams" with Robert Ross and Bruce Hunt, September 16

Click here to attend >>

Illinois Institute of Technology


"What Does the Constitution Say About Voting?" a virtual event with Felice Batlan, Atiba Ellis, Derek T. Muller, and Carolyn Shapiro, September 17

Click here to attend >>

Louisiana State University


"Our Fifteenth Amendment and Its Discontents" with Randall Kennedy, September 18

Click here to attend >>

Mercer University


"Frederick Douglass and the U.S. Constitution" with Nicholas Buccola, September 17

Click here to attend >>

Middlebury College


"1619 or 1776?: Was America Founded on Slavery?" a debate between Lucas Morel and Leslie Harris

University of Mississippi


"The People and the Constitution" with Daniel Cullen, September 18

University of Nevada - Las Vegas


"The Founder of Modern Founding" with James Ceaser, September 17

Click here to attend >>

University of Notre Dame


"A Century of Votes for Women" with Christina Wolbrecht, September 17

Click here to attend >>

Oglethorpe University


"'An Agreement with Hell': Slavery, Abolitionists, and the United States Constitution" with Susan McWilliams Barndt, September 15

Click here to attend >>

Ohio University


"America's Two Constitutions: Race, Sex, War, and the 1960s" with Christopher Caldwell,
September 10


Click here to attend >>

University of Oklahoma


"Scientific Tyranny and Constitutionalism in Plato's Statesman" with Jacob Howland, October 21

Pomona College


"The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents" with Corey Brettschneider, September 18

Click here to attend >>

Rhodes College


"Frederick Douglass and the Constitution" with Nicholas Buccola, October 5

University of Virginia


"Federalism and the Constitution in 2020" with John Dinan, September 16

University of Wisonsin - Madison


"Civil-Military Relations: What They Are, Why They Matter, and How to Think About Them" with Richard Kohn, September 17 & "Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students” with Donald Downs, November 12

Click here to attend >>

Ursinus College


"Frederick Douglass's Constitution" with Nicholas Buccola, October 7

Villanova University


"The Constitution in 2020" with Michael Moreland, September 18

On campus, ACS approved

Benjamin Franklin’s Speech at the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787 From the Benjamin Franklin Historical Society:

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said “I don’t know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that’s always in the right-Il n’y a que moi qui a toujours raison.”

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administred.

On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.-

Selected online resources for Constitution Day:

Signing of the Constitution paintingThe JMC First Amendment Library

The JMC First Amendment Library holds a wealth of resources on the history, law, theory, and development of religious liberty and freedom of speech in the United States.

Click here to explore the library >>

 

 

The National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia has several online resources for learning about the Constitution, its background, and current constitutional controversies.

Visit the National Constitution Center website >>

 

 

Greg WeinerFellow Greg Weiner’s Views on Teaching Constitution Day

“When I assign students in my American Government classes to read the Constitution, a document whose birthday the nation commemorates on September 17, I ask them how many have read the main body of it—really read it, front to back—before. Few raise their hands. They are college freshman and sophomores, mostly, having generally graduated from high schools with civics requirements…”

Read the rest of the article at the Huffington Post >>

 

 

United States ConstitutionConstitution Day at the National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration celebrates Constitution Day with activities and online workshops.

Explore National Archives resources here >>

 

 

 

The United States Senate on Constitution Day

The U.S. Senate played a key role in introducing Constitution Day legislation. Appropriately, the Senate’s website offers a history of the day.

Read about Constitution Day at the U.S. Senate’s website >>

 

 

*If you are a JMC fellow who’s published on Constitution Day or its history, and would like your work included here, send it to us at academics@gojmc.org.

 


 

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