Celebrate Constitution Day with Public Reading, Chat with the Founders

Posted on 9/14/2020 3:18:17 PM

Celebrate Constitution Day on September 21 with two events free and open to the community.

Constitution Day commemorates the September 17, 1787, signing of the US Constitution, which is 233 years old this year.

Sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences 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 from noon to 1:00 p.m. in front of Stapleton Library, facing the Oak Grove. IUP President Michael Driscoll will begin the event with a reading of the Constitution’s Preamble.

Although this will be the twelfth year that IUP has hosted a public reading of the Constitution, some things will be a bit different in light of the pandemic. The sidewalk in front of the library where readers line up will be marked at six-foot intervals to ensure proper social distancing. For those unable to be on campus, the event will be live-streamed, and viewers can use Zoom to que in a virtual line to read a part of the Constitution, along with readers able to participate in person. Virtual readers will be interspersed with in-person readers.

As at past public readings, the first 100 participants will receive a special “We the People at IUP” t-shirt, as well as a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution and a star-shaped cookie.  

In the case of inclement weather, the public reading will take place in the lobby of the Humanities and Social Sciences building.

Later in the day, the intentions of the authors of the US Constitution will be explored in the Six O’Clock Series presentation: “The Constitution, Pandemics, and Racial Inequity: What Would the Founders Say?” from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. on Zoom. 

Four of the Constitution’s authors—Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Charles Pinckney, and James Madison—will discuss the challenges in drafting the Constitution and will speculate about what the Founders would think of today’s politics.

These Framers will be portrayed, respectively, by IUP political science professors David Chambers and Steven Jackson, by retired political science faculty Dighton “Mac” Fiddner, and by history professor Joe Mannard.  Audience participation and questions are encouraged.

“This year, the Founders get to experience Zoom technology,” said Gwen Torges, political science faculty member and coordinator of IUP’s Constitution Day activities. “Government responses to the pandemic bring up interesting questions about federalism and the Constitution that we’ll ask the Founders about,” said Torges. “We’re also going to pose tough questions about the racial discrimination that was condoned by the Constitution.”

Because this is the one hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which extended voting rights to women, “We will ask the Framers why universal voting rights weren’t originally included in the Constitution,” said Torges.

“Democracies don’t work very well if people don’t understand how the government works. One of the most important things that we can do is to read and understand our Constitution. Constitution Day gives us a chance to pause and think about what ‘We the People’ want from our government.