About the National Archives

Welcome remarks for "The 14th Amendment, the National Park Service, and America’s Second Founding" 

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building 
September 29, 2016

Good evening. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased to welcome you to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. We’re glad you could join us tonight, whether you are here in the theater or watching on YouTube.

I want to thank our partners—the Constitutional Accountability Center and the National Park Service—for tonight’s program on “The 14th Amendment, the National Park Service, and America’s Second Founding.”

This year we mark the 150th anniversary of the House Joint Resolution proposing the 14th Amendment in June 1866. It was ratified two years later, and since then this Amendment has redefined American citizenship and changed the relationship between the states and the Federal government.

Before we go any further, I’d like to inform you about two programs coming up next month here in this theater.

At 7 p.m. next Tuesday, October 4, we’ll show the documentary film Equal Means Equal, which takes looks at how women are treated in the United States today. A discussion with the film’s director, Kamala Lopez, will follow the screening.

Two weeks later on Wednesday, October 19, at 7 p.m., we look back at the Black Power movement on the 50th anniversary of its founding. Panelists will discuss “Revolutionary Movements Then and Now: Black Power and Black Lives Matter.”

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

Upstairs, in the David M. Rubenstein Gallery, the permanent exhibit called “Records of Rights” uses archival documents to examine the struggles of Americans to define and realize their civil rights. Close by the 1297 Magna Carta is the Landmark Document case, which we use to temporarily display some of our most important rights records. In the months leading up to the gallery’s opening in December 2013, we asked the public to vote for the first document to display in that case, and their choice was the 14th Amendment.

It was appropriate for that amendment to be the inaugural landmark document because it defines citizenship, mandates Federal protection of due process,  and protects the “life, liberty, and property” of all citizens equally.

And today the 14th Amendment is one of the featured documents in “Amending America,” our newest exhibit in the Lawrence O’Brien Gallery.  I hope you have the opportunity to view this document while visiting out museum in the near future.

The provisions of the 14th Amendment are the means through which Americans claim protection for their rights. And the records of the struggles for rights are here in the National Archives. We preserve them for you and for the generations who follow.

Our moderator tonight is Elizabeth Wydra. She is the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center and from 2008 to 2016 she served as CAC's Chief Counsel. A graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Yale Law School, Wydra was in private practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in San Francisco before joining CAC. She has represented CAC as well as clients including congressional leaders, preeminent constitutional scholars and historians, state and local legislators and government organizations. She appears frequently in print and on air as a legal expert.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Elizabeth Wydra.