Penn observes Constitution Day with special lectures and events


On Sept. 17, Penn will observe Constitution Day in commemoration of the day in 1787 the document establishing the United States of America was signed by its framers, including Penn’s founder Benjamin Franklin.

Special lectures and events scheduled on campus include a 60-second lecture by Penn Law Professor Sara Barringer Gordon. She will deliver an address titled “A Constitutional Moment: Freedom of Religion in One Minute” at 11:55 a.m., at Stiteler Plaza, 37th Street and Locust Walk. In case of rain, the lecture will take place in the Reading Room at Houston Hall.

The Penn Bookstore will host a voter registration drive by Penn Leads the Vote in the foyer of the store from noon until 2 p.m., and also will display an assortment of Constitution-related books available for purchase. Last May, Penn History Professor Richard Beeman was awarded the 2010 George Washington Book Prize for “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution,” an account of the nation’s Founding Fathers who met in Philadelphia to create a new form of government during the Constitutional Convention. 

Also on Constitution Day, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to visit the National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St., where they will enjoy free admission.

Finally, extending the commemoration by a few days, the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism will host a discussion called “Ethnicity Without Groups,” featuring UCLA sociologist Rogers Brubaker, on Sept. 23, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Houston Hall’s Class of ‘49 Auditorium.

History buffs will note that while 39 of the Constitution’s framers signed the document on Sept. 17, 1787, the Constitution did not become effective until 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights, became part of the document in 1791.


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