About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for the People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual author lecture with John Kowal and Wilfred Codrington III about their new book, The People’s Constitution.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

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On Thursday, September 23, at 1 p.m., Joseph Ellis will tell us about his new book, The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents. In this work on the American Founding, Ellis challenges the story we have long told ourselves about our origins as a people and a nation.

And on Wednesday, September 29, at 1 p.m., Andrew O’Shaughnessy will discuss Thomas Jefferson’s founding of the University of Virginia, which is the subject of the new book, The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of a University.

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Constitution Day—September 17—commemorates the day our U.S. Constitution was signed by members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. But almost immediately after, changes were called for. Some of the states would ratify only with the promise of amendments, which became our Bill of Rights.

The ability to accommodate change was built into the Constitution, in Article Five, and the bar to amending is set high. Since the ratification of the Bill of Rights, more than 11,000 amendments have been proposed—and only 17 passed.

On this Constitution Day, we will hear from the authors of The People’s Constitution, a new book that examines the creation of our Constitution—not just the articles signed in 1787 but the entire document including its 27 amendments.

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John F. Kowal, a former director of grantmaking initiatives at the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations, is vice president for programs at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. He writes on issues of constitutional law and democracy reform.

Wilfred U. Codrington III is an assistant professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. His teaching and scholarship focus on constitutional law, election law, race, and antidiscrimination.

Now let’s hear from John Kowal and Wilfred Codrington. Thank you for joining us.