Resolved: That for maximum enjoyment of today’s installment, the TJP editorial staff recommends that you play the following clip–loudly1–and that Congress (or WordPress) shall make no laws prohibiting it.
Tuesday, September 17 is the United States’ official “Constitution Day!” It’s the day we celebrate when George Washington and the Founding Fathers descended from on high (well, Philadelphia, at least) to give law to the restless revolutionaries. This year will mark the 226th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. And, although it isn’t was one of those holidays marked by by vacation, BBQs, or fancy hats, we can take some time to reflect on this document of our shared legal and political heritage.
The best way to do this is to take a busload of teenagers on a field trip to Washington, DC for a week. Pretty awesome, right? Barring that, the next best place to start might be the text of the Constitution itself. Here’s a quick civics test: how many articles and amendments are there? The answer is VII and 28(only one of which has been repealed!) respectively. (Don’t worry, I teach at a law school and I still had to look it up.) The National Constitution Center also maintains a fantastic bank of historical resources related to the Constitution, such as a copy of the handwritten manuscript of the Thirteenth Amendment (banning slavery) as considered by Congress and a neat little essay by law professors Akhil Reed Amar of Yale Law School and Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine University on understanding the Constitution. In fact, all sorts of educators might find the Educational Resources an interesting excursion.
And, once you’ve learned all you can learn, you could redeem your performance on my earlier civics test and put your new found knowledge to the test at the intriguing “Do I have a Right?” game at iCivics.
If you want to dig deeper into Constitutional history, there’s maybe nothing better on the internet (because, let’s be honest, that’s where we’re all doing our best research, aren’t we?) than with the National Archives. Their essay “A More Perfect Union” is a good primer for what struggles faced the members of the Constitutional Convention the summer of 1787. It also includes brief synopsis of the story leading up to the American Revolution and the impact both in the United States and abroad of that revolution.
And, for a multi-media experience, check out the Oyez Project of the Chicago-Kent School of Law. “Oyez” is the ancient call to order for courts. The Oyez Project contains audio recordings of nearly all recent cases heard by the Supreme Court. And, now you can hear them, too! (Yay free speech!) You can also subscribe to get the latest recordings of both arguments and decision announcements.
You know, I think spending the day researching constitutional history is just about perfect. But really, we all know that nothing is perfect. That includes the constitutional history of the United States. The values spoken of can be lost or ignored. But, it is worth taking at least one day to focus on the values “We the People” at least try to hold ourselves to. To remember that:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
U.S. Constitution image courtesy Flickr user Adam Theo
Constitution signers image courtesy Flickr user stan.faryna
- TJP cannot be held responsible if you actually do this at work or in class. ↩