Press Release
Press Release · Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Washington, D.C. . . . This September, the National Archives continues its popular tradition of celebrating Constitution Day. The National Archives has the original Constitution on permanent display in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. For the first time, National Archives programs in honor of Constitution Day, September 17, will extend far beyond one day and far beyond the Rotunda to reach thousands of citizens, teachers, and students nationwide.

Checks and Balances in the Age of Instant Messaging: A Congressional Perspective
Thursday, September 15 at 7:00 P.M., National Archives William G. McGowan Theater
(This program will be broadcast as a web-cast)

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss will moderate this discussion with members of Congress on the impact of high-speed communications, instantaneous news, and public expectations of quick results on basic constitutional principles such as "separation of powers" and "federalism." House Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer have already agreed to participate in the program. The discussion will address if and how the Founding Fathers' blueprint for deliberative democracy should be adapted to a world reshaped by communications technology. This will be the inaugural William G. McGowan Communications Forum, an annual event at the National Archives exploring the intersection of technology, communications and government. This program is free and open to the public. Reservations can be made by e-mail ( or telephone (202-501-5000).

Constitutional Conversations with Supreme Court Justices
To be broadcast Friday, September 16 at noon in the National Archives William G. McGowan Theater. Will be broadcast via satellite and web cast on Friday, September 16 at noon and at 3 P.M.

U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer will discuss the Constitution with high school students at the Supreme Court. This program will be filmed this summer and edited into a classroom ready 45-minute program. The Justices will take questions from the students and discuss a broad a range of Constitutional issues with a particular emphasis on: the need for a constitution; federalism; implicit and explicit rights; and separation of powers.

National Public Radio's Justice Talking Debate on "Free Speech in the Digital Age"
Live broadcast Friday, September 16 at 1:30 P.M. National Archives William G. McGowan Theater. This program will be simultaneously broadcast via satellite and as a web-cast

This live broadcast of NPR's Justice Talking, hosted by Margot Adler, is a special hour-long Constitution Day edition. The show's topic "Free Speech in the Digital Age" will examine censorship in libraries, textbooks, and on the Internet. The program will focus on the First Amendment and will examine reasons for both protecting and limiting speech, including the protection of minors and assuring community safety, ensuring a free marketplace of ideas, and guaranteeing democratic institutions. Adler will field questions and comments from the live studio audience of schoolchildren and their teachers during the debate. This program will be filmed by NPR's Justice Talking.

Constitution Day presentations learning materials will be available in the Digital Classroom section of the National Archives web site at, and on the Justice Learning site at These programs and the online learning materials will be made available free of charge to schools. Participation in the programs will help schools meet their obligation under the Byrd Amendment to the Omnibus Appropriation spending bill that requires schools receiving federal funding to offer an educational program about the Constitution on Constitution Day.

Related programs and exhibits at the National Archives:

The Constitution: That Delicate Balance
September 1- 13 at noon in the National Archives William G. McGowan Theater

The Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film at the National Archives presents the 13-part 1984 television series from the Annenberg/Corporation for Public Broadcasting Collection that will be screened in 1 hour episodes. Constitutional issues come to life in this Emmy Award-winning series. From presidential prerogative and congressional power to whether to disconnect the respirator of a dying relative, viewers are spurred to examine their understanding, beliefs and biases surrounding constitutional issues. The heated roundtable debates in these programs, including such well-known figures as Ellen Goodman, Archibald Cox, Gloria Steinem and Bill Moyers, among many others, vividly demonstrate the relevance and power of this enduring document.

Thursday, September 1 - Executive Privilege and Delegation of Powers
Friday, September 2 - War Powers and Covert Action
Saturday, September 3 - Nomination, Election, and Succession of the President
Sunday, September 4 - Criminal Justice and a Defendant's Right to a Fair Trial
Monday, September 5 - Crime and Insanity
Tuesday, September 6 - Crime and Punishments
Wednesday, September 7 - Campaign Spending
Thursday, September 8 - National Security and Freedom of the Press
Friday, September 9 - School Prayer, Gun Control, and the Right to Assemble
Saturday, September 10 - Right To Live, Right to Die
Sunday, September 11 - Immigration Reform
Monday, September 12 - Affirmative Action Versus Reverse Discrimination
Tuesday, September 13 – Federalism

The 1297 Magna Carta
Starting Friday, September 16, the 1297 Magna Carta will be on display. In 1215 on the plains of Runnymede an assembly of barons confronted the despotic King John of England and demanded that traditional rights be recognized, written down, confirmed with the royal seal, and sent to each of the counties to be read to all freemen. King John agreed, binding himself and his heirs to grant "to all freemen of our kingdom" the rights and liberties described in the great charter, or Magna Carta. Thus King John placed himself and England's future sovereigns and magistrates within the rule of law. Between 1215 and 1297, Magna Carta was reissued by each of King John's successors. The 1297 Magna Carta, confirmed by Edward I, was entered on the English statute rolls and thus became the foundation document of English common law. Only four originals of the 1297 Magna Carta remain. The 1297 Magna Carta on display at the National Archives was purchased by the Perot Foundation in 1984 and is on indefinite loan to the National Archives. It is the only Magna Carta permanently residing in the United States.

The American Constitution: The Road from Runnymede
Saturday, September 17 at 12 noon in the National Archives William G. McGowan Theater

Narrated by Christopher Reeve, this 1992 film for young people on the history of the Constitution guides young viewers through almost 600 years of political struggle from Magna Carta in 1215 to the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. It examines the English roots of the U.S. Constitution, highlighting the political turmoil of 17th century England and showing how such fundamental principles as "rule of Law" and "limited government" emerged. The film shows how these principles were translated into American colonial government and sparked powerful clashes between the colonists and Great Britain, leading to the first attempt at national government, the Articles of Confederation. (57 minutes - appropriate for ages 12 and up).

The First Federal Congress and the Constitution
Wednesday, September 21 at noon in the National Archives Jefferson Room

Charlene Bickford and Dr. Kenneth Bowling speak about the First Federal Congress and the Constitution. Bickford is the Director of the First Federal Congress Project which is housed at George Washington University. Both she and Dr. Bowling are co-editors of the Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 1789 - 1791 and co-authors of Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789 - 1791.

Blogging: Free Press for All or Free-for-All?
Thursday, September 22 at 7 p.m. in the National Archives William G. McGowan Theater

In honor of Constitution Day, the Newseum and the National Archives will present a program examining how technological advances are reshaping interpretation of the First Amendment, the amendment that guarantees, among other things, free speech and free press. It has been said that the power of the press belongs to the person who owns one. Today as the Internet turns desktops and laptops into personal presses, First Amendment rights are challenged and a power shift seems to be under way. Bloggers are staking a claim to "grassroots journalism," and print and broadcast journalists are looking to the future and wondering where their reporting skills fit in. What's credible? What's not? And, just how far does the First Amendment protect this new wave of journalism? Frank Bond of the Newseum and former Channel 9 anchor will moderate a discussion with Robert Cox, President of the Media Bloggers Association and Managing Editor of The National Debate; Bruce Sanford, Chairman of the Board, The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression at the University of Virginia; and Jay Rosen, Chairman and Professor of Journalism at New York University, as they examine the issues on the line when technology meets traditional journalism.

Copyright, the Constitution, and the Crisis in Historical Documentary Film
Friday, September 23 at 7 pm in the National Archives William G. McGowan Theater

The Charles Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film at the National Archives, the Center for Social Media at American University, and the National Archives present a panel discussion on the endangered right of "fair use" and its critical importance in preserving the constitutionality of copyright law. The discussion will focus on copyright clearance issues in the production of historical documentary films for the burgeoning multichannel TV market and in the distribution of older work such as Eyes on the Prize. Moderator: Pat Aufderheide, Professor and Director, Center for Social Media, School of Communication, American University. Speakers: Peter Jaszi, Professor and Director, Program on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, American University Law School; Grace Guggenheim, Vice President, Guggenheim Productions; and John Sorensen, Producer, New River Media.

A New World Is at Hand
Flanking the permanent display of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights is the exhibition, "A New World Is at Hand." Featuring a selection of the National Archives' most treasured documents, this exhibition reveals the drama, passion, and poignancy of the struggle for freedom that has defined much of U.S. history. On Constitution Day, we call particular attention to George Washington's own working copy of the first printed draft of the constitution. Other highlights of the exhibit include the Articles of Confederation, a working draft of the amendments that would become the Bill of Rights, and a document from the milestone Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court case.

The Public Vaults
This permanent interactive exhibition – literally located behind the wall of the display of the Constitution – is organized according to the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The Public Vaults creates the feeling of going into the stacks and vaults of the National Archives, and offers visitors a "hands on" examination of the workings of the three branches of government, as outlined in the Constitution.

The Friday, September 16 broadcasts are co-sponsored by the New York Times Knowledge Network, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities; American Bar Association Division of Public Education; Center for Civic Education; Close-UP Foundation; Marshall-Brennan Legal Fellowship Program; National Constitution Center; National History Day; NPR's Justice Talking; Presidential Classroom; Street Law; and Student Voices. The programs are made possible with the generous support of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, Inc., and the Foundation for the National Archives.

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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-501-5526.


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