Sept. 17 marks 225 years since the signing of the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land. To commemorate the historic event, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia is hosting a range of events.
Celebrate American democracy and enjoy some cake while people dressed as past presidents including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt make guest appearances. Fast–paced games will test visitors’ knowledge of the Constitution and the three branches of government.
Some events during the weeklong celebration are more somber, such as a "sworn-again ceremony” during which participants can renew civic vows and re-embrace their commitment as citizens.
Since the Constitution was signed in 1787, it remains a document that “is essential to strengthening and preserving freedom, the core legacy of the country,” said David Eisner, president and chief executive of the center. And there may be no better time than during an election year for visitors to focus on the values of the country’s founding fathers, he said.
“We are facing deep, deep issues as a democracy. Americans are facing challenges — economic, social and political — that are as tough as anything we’ve faced in the generations since the founding of the country, with the exception of the Civil War,” Eisner said. Many of the center’s exhibits and activities “relive the Constitution’s powerful stories of passion, violence and overcoming obstacles,” he said, and help visitors to become invested “in what we need to do, to keep our country and democracy strong.”
On Sept. 15, the center kicks off its Constitution Week with outdoor events on the front lawn, featuring educational programs, musical performances, colonial-era games and historic interpreters.
From Sept. 16-23, visitors can join in a variety of hands-on activities, like participating in calligraphy demonstrations to learn about techniques used to pen the original Constitution, and printing a copy of the preamble on a replica press from the 1700s, the same way the Constitution was printed, in the center’s old-fashioned print shop.
Some events will be offered beyond the week, including interactive features that allow participants to be sworn in as president or to try their hand at creating six–word stump speeches, during which entries are submitted via on-site iPads, and later appear on a giant screen.
A giant, commemorative 225th anniversary Constitutionis on display through the end of the year in Signers' Hall, for visitors to sign alongside 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. (Newly minted calligraphers can pen their signatures using the 18th century method.)
Those not able to make the trek to Philadelphia can sign the Constitution virtually via a special electronic version of the document and visit the Center’s Constitution Day website. It provides a variety of resources and educational tools, like the “Which Founder Are You?” quiz, which allows users to compare their personality traits with those of the men who wrote the Constitution, and also features a special Web cast focused on the presidency. Experts will be available to chat live with students and teachers from Sept.17 to 21from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
One of the main objectives of the center “is to make history come alive, to portray the events of the past in an important and meaningful way, especially to young people,” said Richard R. Beeman, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and author of several books about the Constitution. He said the mission was not only about “civic education,” but also about "civic inspiration.”
“I am 70 years old, and I’ve been actively interested in politics since 1952, when I threw down my surfboard,” said Beeman, who grew up in California (and who has been known to greet visitors dressed up as John Dickinson, a little known delegate from Delaware so as to not upstage “the more important” signers.) “And never in my life have I felt that the U.S. Constitution has more relevance than it has today.”
Admission is $14.50 for adults; $13 for seniors and students; and $8 for children. Those under age 3 are free. On Monday, Sept. 17, general admission is free.
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