Honoring the Constitution

On Thursday at a press conference, Mayor Ed Rendell unveiled plans for a National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, with Penn as its partner in developing Constitution-related programming both at the Center and at the University.

While the groundbreaking is not scheduled until the year 2000 (more precisely, Constitution Day, September 17, 2000), the Mayor showed an 8 -minute video that simulates the visitors' experience--which will be, according to the Center's president, Joseph Torsella, "unlike any other museum experience. Visitors will leave with a profound sense of the integral role the Constitution played in their history and the role it continues to play in their everyday lives. They will leave understanding that they are part of 'We the People'."

Titled Imagine a Place, the video is narrated by President George Bush, actor James Earl Jones, and NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who is also a Penn trustee. It is available through local branches of the Free Library, and group screenings can be arranged by calling the National Constitution Center at 923-0004.

"Penn's commitment to the National Constitution Center has grown out of our strategic plan, Agenda for Excellence, which commits the University to an expansion of research and teaching programs concerning democratic and legal institutions in America and around the world," President Judith Rodin said at the press conference. "This will involve several different schools at Penn, and should lead to the recruitment of distinguished new faculty whose work focuses on issues of constitutionalism and democracy." New interdisciplinary course for undergraduates is one of Penn's projected links, along with the further development of some initiatives already begun, such as the student-edited constitutional law journal at the Law School.

Key figures in the project are Dean Gary Hack of GSFA, who will serve as a senior consultant on design and site planning, and Dr. Richard Beeman, professor of history, who will be the Center's first Senior Visiting Fellow. Among other things Dr. Beeman will help identify and enlist scholars, legal affairs experts, public officials, museum professionals and others across the nation to help design programs, exhibits, and town meetings.

"Drs. Beeman and Hack are simply the best and the brightest in their fields," the Mayor said. "Having them as part of the NCC team is tremendously exciting--they exemplify the combination of academic distinction and practical experience that characterize the type of individual we intend to attract to the Center."


Volume 43 Number 36
June 17, 1997

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