a student taking a selfie with someone dressed as a founding fatherIndiana University of Pennsylvania will celebrate Constitution Day on Sept. 18 with two events free and open to the community.

Constitution Day commemorates the September 17, 1787, signing of the US Constitution, which is 234 years old this year.

Sponsored by the College of Arts and Humanities and the Department of Political Science, events at IUP will begin with the traditional public reading of the Constitution by members of the IUP community, joined by students from Indiana Area High School, on Sept. 18 from noon to 1:20 p.m. in front of Stapleton Library, facing the Oak Grove.

IUP Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lara Luetkehans will begin the event with a reading of the Constitution’s Preamble.

This is the fifteenth year that IUP has hosted a public reading of the Constitution.

As at past public readings, the first 100 participants will receive a special “We the People at IUP” T-shirt, a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution, and a star-shaped cookie. The opportunity to be a reader is open to all.

This year, students from Indiana Area Senior High School’s eleventh-grade American Government Advanced Placement course with William Doody will participate in the public reading.

In the case of inclement weather, the public reading will take place in the lobby of Jane E. Leonard Hall.

Later in the day, the intentions of the authors of the US Constitution will be explored in the Six O’Clock Series presentation: “What Would Our Founding Fathers Say?” from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Elkin Hall Great Room.

When the Constitution was written in 1787, Thomas Jefferson said that he didn’t expect it to last more than 20 years. At 233 years old, the US Constitution is the oldest continuous constitution in the world. 

Three of the Constitution’s authors—Ben Franklin, Charles Pinckney, and James Madison, portrayed by Political Science emeritus faculty David Chambers and Mac Fiddner and Department of History professor Joe Mannard, respectively—will discuss the work they did at the Constitutional Convention. The discussion also will focus on how the Constitution could be interpreted in relation to current events, like the upcoming presidential election and free speech and social media information about COVID-19.

“If we want to understand our government and the way it works, we have to start by familiarizing ourselves with the US Constitution,” Gwen Torges, chair of IUP’s Department of Political Science and coordinator of IUP’s Constitution Day activities, said. “Because the US Constitution impacts our lives, it’s important that everyone in the country have a general understanding of it and the government that it creates. But it’s especially important that college students read and understand the US Constitution because they are most likely the ones who will be in the leadership positions of the future. I would go so far as to say that college students have an obligation to educate themselves about the Constitution and to pay attention to what elected officials are doing. 

“Living in a democracy and having the option of influencing public policy with our votes and our actions is a privilege. But along with that privilege comes responsibilities and obligations, the most important of which is to educate ourselves about our government and to observe and understand what’s going on in the world around us,” she said.