'We the People': Celebrating the U.S. Constitution

Constitution Day

It was on Sept. 17, 1787, when 39 of the 55 state delegates to the United States Constitutional Congress signed the U.S. Constitution, formally creating our nation. In 2004, this date was established as a national holiday, and due to the efforts of the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), schools across the country now take this day to commemorate the Constitution of the United States.

At Yale, the Constitution is studied and discussed year-round, whether in the seminars and master's teas of Yale College, the debates of the Yale Political Union or the classrooms of the Law School. Yale also periodically makes some of these discussions available to the wider public in the form of open courses and podcasts.

In honor of the 223rd anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, the University invites members of the Yale community and the public to listen to these three podcasts of lectures that examine issues related to the First Amendment.

First Things First: The First Amendment, the Media Industry and Democracy
In this iTunes U podcast, Joel Hyatt, LAW '76, discusses the role of the first amendment in promoting democracy. The first part of his remarks focuses on his efforts to create Hyatt Legal Services, the nation's first standard-fee law firm, over opposition from the legal industry, and his efforts to establish the right of legal firms to advertise in broadcast media. Hyatt also discusses the company Current Media and its mission to help the public overcome entry barriers in the media industry by providing an outlet for citizen journalism. Two important questions that frame Hyatt's remarks are: What should the media provide in exchange for its First Amendment protections? And, what are the social consequences when media fails to provide those things?

The First Amendment Online: The Future of Journalism
In what spirit did the authors of the Bill of Rights enact First Amendment protections for the freedom of the press? Arianna Huffington addresses this question in a speech on the topic of how new forms of media, particularly the Internet and social media, serve in the role of an independent, citizen-generated free press, and why they deserve careful First Amendment consideration because of their unique role. Huffington also addresses the importance of "net neutrality" to bolster the independence of Internet media, so it can avoid the "journalistic capture" that has afflicted more traditional, and limited, media forms.

Citizens United and the Future of Campaign Finance Reform
Samuel Issacharoff, LAW '83, traces the history of tension between the ethics of campaign finance limitations and constitutional protections of free speech as it developed in the Supreme Court from Buckley v. Valeo (1976) through Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). Issacharoff discusses the concerns from both perspectives in the case, the legal details of the case, and its likely consequences and relevance to the greater problem of money-rooted politics. Issacharoff also discusses the purpose of the First Amendment by posing a question: Does the amendment serve as a blanket protection for entities, or as a guarantee of a certain social structure?