On Wednesday, Sept. 17, Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs (OGCA) is offering a variety of ways for we the people of Penn to celebrate National Constitution Day, more than two centuries after the Founding Fathers first signed the document on Sept. 17, 1787.
“Penn is such a civically engaged institution, and civic engagement and knowledge of our political system goes hand-in-hand,” says Gina Lavery, associate director for OGCA. “It’s important for our students as active citizens to not only be out there volunteering and doing service projects, but also knowing what their rights are. If students are inspired to change something about our system, they should know how to get engaged in that way.”
To kick off Constitution Day at Penn, OGCA will host a special edition of the School of Arts & Science’s (SAS) 60-Second Lecture series, in which professors squeeze a wealth of knowledge into just one minute. The special Constitution Day lecture, which takes place at Stiteler Plaza at 37th Street and Locust Walk, will feature Peter Decherney, a professor of cinema studies and English, who will discuss “A History of Copyright in the U.S.: From the Constitution to Today.”
Staff members from OGCA will be on hand at the lecture and the Penn Bookstore to pass out pocket-size prints of the Constitution, as well as voter registration forms for unregistered voters.
“The Constitution is a foundational document for our country,” Lavery says. “People are always talking about what’s constitutional and what’s not. It can be interpreted in different ways. We just want people to be educated about what’s really in the document.”
National Constitution Day was founded in 2004, when U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia included key provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2005 designating Sept. 17 of each year as Constitution Day, requiring governmental offices and educational institutions that receive federal funding to provide programs to promote a better understanding of the Constitution.
Lavery says OGCA also encourages the Penn community to explore the National Constitution Center at 525 Arch St., which offers free admission on National Constitution Day. Penn President Amy Gutmann serves on the Center’s Board of Trustees.
For more information about the OGCA’s National Constitution Day 60-Second Lecture, visit the SAS website.