We the People …: Celebrating the U.S. Constitution
In the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the nation’s founders declare their intention to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” On this Constitution Day, the national holiday commemorating the ratification of that document over two centuries ago, we ask our readers: What freedom(s) do you most treasure?
Send us your answer via email at email@example.com. Responses (200 words or less, please) will be published on Yale News.
The Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, by 39 of the 55 state delegates to the United States Constitutional Congress, 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. This year, the holiday is being celebrated on Sept. 21, because Sept. 17 falls on a Saturday.
The Constitution on campus
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. This year, there are five courses being offered at Yale College that will focus on that fundamental document: “Civil War and Reconstruction, 1845-1877” and “The American Presidency” in the fall, and “Crisis of 21st-Century Constitutionalism,” “The Constitution: Philosophy, History and Law” and “Introduction to American Politics” in the spring.
Yale also makes some of the discussions that take place on campus available to the wider public in the form of open courses, podcasts and videos. The following are some examples.
The Ralph Gregory Elliot Lecture at Yale Law School by Stanford law professor Michael McConnell, an expert on freedom of speech and religion.
A book discussion by Yale law professor Reva Siegel and Pultizer Prize-winner Linda Greenhouse, journalist-in-residence at the Law School, about the latter’s book.
A talk at the Law School on abortion rights, torture and the confirmation process, among other topics by Dawn Johnsen, former acting assistant attorney general under President Clinton and two-time President Obama nominee to head the Department Office of Justice Legal Counsel.
A talk hosted by the American Constitution Society of Yale Law School featuring professors Peter Schuck and Akhil Ahmar, who discuss the history, the purpose, and ultimately the application of the 14th Amendment and birthright citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants.
Also celebrating the Declaration of Independence
Another historic document, the Declaration of Independence, is currently the focus of an exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery.
“We the People: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” draws upon the gallery’s collection of American art to illuminate the diverse and evolving American experience from the time of the settlements of the 17th century to the world’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.
The first installment of the three-part presentation, “We the People,” highlights paintings, decorative arts, historic prints and photographs that create a portrait of a young country as it struggled to define itself geographically, politically, socially and artistically. “We the People” will be on view through Dec. 31.
The Yale University Art Gallery, located at 1111 Chapel St., is open to the public free of charge: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m. (September-June); and Sunday 1-6 p.m. For additional information, visit artgallery.yale.edu, or call 203-432-0600.