Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights & the Flaws
Articles,  Blog

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights & the Flaws

>>Lee Ann Potter:
I’m Lee Ann Potter, I direct Educational
outreach here at the library. And, I’m thrilled to see you. I’m thrilled to also wish you
a very happy Constitution Day. This morning, when I told my
15 year old sophomore daughter that, she rolled her eyes
and said yeah mom whatever. And then, I told
her, trust me, honey, if you said to your U.S. History
teacher happy Constitution Day today, he would love it. And, she assured me she would. How many of you believe
she really will. That’s kind of how I feel. But, I try, I try. Anyway, we’re happy
that you’re here. My colleague Barbara
and I are going to give you just a real brief
introduction to the Library of Congress, to the
collections and then we’re going to dive into our program. So, without further ado,
Barbara, come on up.>>Barbara Davis: Thank
you, welcome everybody. My name is Barbara Davis. I’m from the Law
Library of Congress, which I’m sure you’re
all going to want to visit after this, right. I just want to take
a couple minutes just to show you a few things on
our website that, I think, could really help you with your
constitutional law research, since that is one of the things that we cover in
the Law Library. So, quickly, we do
have something, this is a link that’s directly
on our website which is law.gov, and it’s called the
Guide to Law Online, if everyone can see that. We have a specific
constitution guide. So, the Guide to Law
Online has curated links. So, everything you see linked on
the Guide to Law Online is free. So, everything you
click on this guide that you ca see here you can
actually access, you don’t have to go into a library for. Although, we’d love to see all of your smiling faces
at the library. This might help you if you’re
just trying to kind of figure out how to start your research. It has constitution legal
research guides as well as the Constitution in other
languages and other resources. Another resource that we have
on our website is our blog. And, I know people
usually tend to shy away from blogs as a resource. But, our blog is really great. We have a lot of research
guides that could help you with your constitutional
law research. And, I’ve showed you one
here, we actually did one on the framing of
the Constitution. So, the primary documents
you can find for free online surrounding the
creation of the constitution. We also are the contact
people for congress.gov. If you haven’t used
congress.gov before, it’s our legislative
information system. So, we have information
about all the bills and resolution introduced
in Congress from 1973 to the present. And, in addition to that
legislative resource, we also have what we call
the founding documents page. Founding documents page gives
a link to several web guides. So, we have a web guide
for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the
Federalist papers, all of which, I think, can help your research with regards to the
Constitution. It’s not just the text
of the Constitution, but, it’s also primary
resources around that period. So, newspaper articles, letters
written by people involved, all things that can help you
and all things that are free. It also has lists to books that
you can find in the library that also talk about
that subject as well. And then, finally, you
can see a link on there to the Constitution Annotated. This is what it looks
like, if you click on it. The Constitution Annotated
is written by members of the Congressional
Research Services, so people who do research
only for Congress. And, they’ve gone
through each part of the Constitution
and its amendments. And, they’ve talked about
the history of the creation of those sections of
the Constitution as well as U.S. Supreme Court cases that have interpreted those
parts of the Constitution. So, another really great
resource, it’s a little dry so, you know, take your time
when you’re reading it. But, the good news is it gives
you places to kind of begin and to start your
research and to move on from there, all right. So, I think these are
all great resources. If you have your
phones, feel free to look at them while you’re here. Everything you see is free. And, I’m going to turn
it back over to Lee Ann, if she’s still here,
yes, to continue on. Thank you guys. [ Applause ]>>Lee Ann Potter:
I’m just curious, how many of you’ve ever explored
the library’s website before? How many of you think maybe it
might be a good idea to check out the Library of Congress’s
website once in a while? This is where you
all raise your hands. Okay, I’m going to keep going. I’m always blown away
by what is available. And, certainly, the Law
Library is no exception. But, the Law Library’s
only a portion of the Library of Congress. In addition to the
resources that are available through the library’s
Law Library, there are lots of
other collections. And, I wanted to highlight
just a couple of them for you. And, I’m going to draw
particular attention to two primary sources that are
within the Library’s collection because the stories around them,
I think, are just so terrific that I hope they’ll be
sort of the starting point for a fun conversation that
you guys are going to have at your tables in a little bit. So, the main library’s website
is just very straightforward, it’s loc.gov. So, on the library’s
main website, you’ll see where it
says Library Catalog and then it says
Digital Collections, and then Researchers,
Copyright office, congress.gov Law Library,
and then Teachers. I wanted to show you
just one little section under that Digital Collections. The one item I wanted to make
sure you saw is the Library of Congress holds the
papers of George Washington. You’ve probably heard
of this guy. And, you probably know that he
had something really important to do with the Constitutional
Convention, yes. Have you started all that yet? So, within his papers
are letters he wrote to different individuals as
well as log books that he kept, receipts that he kept. George Washington was an
amazing record keeper. And, all of his papers are held
here at the Library of Congress and all of them have
been digitized and are available online. And, one of the items that’s
in that collection is a letter that he wrote to a man named
Henry Knox in March of 1787. Have you guys ever heard of
the name Henry Knox before? Who was he? Do you remember? Yeah, yeah, exactly,
so he would, he becomes the first
Secretary of War. But, during the Revolution, he
was in charge of the artillery and he and George
Washington became really, really good friends. I fact, I got to say it, Henry
Knox is one of those people to really get to know because, before the Revolution,
he was a book seller. So, people here at the library
really think highly of him. He was a lover of books. Anyway, he and George Washington
were very good friends and, very, very dear friends. And, in March of 1787, George
Washington writes him a letter. And, we know about this letter
for a couple of reasons. One, because there’s a
copy of the letter in one of George Washington’s
letter books. Now, you know today when you
guys send emails to people, if you still send emails? I know everything else is
like Snap Chat or something. But, if you send an email, you
know how in your mailboxes, you’ve got your mailbox, you’ve
got you inbox and your outbox, so you can see what you sent. Well, back then, people like George Washington
kept letter books. And, what they were,
were literally big books where they kept copies of
the letters that they wrote. And so, if you go into the
letter book of George Washington from the spring of 1787,
there is a copy of the letter that he sent to Henry Knox. And then, in another
collection is the response that he received
back from Henry Knox. But, in the letter, he says my
dear sir, and then he goes on, he goes on, he goes
on, and then he gets into the meat of the letter. And, what he asks is this. He says, this again,
it’s March 1787. The Constitutional Convention
doesn’t even begin until May. And, he’s saying to George,
he’s saying to Henry Knox, he’s like so I’ve
been asked to go to this convention
in Philadelphia. And, I’m deciding whether
or not I’m going to go. And, I’d really like
your advice. That’s the essence
of this letter. He’s saying a thought, however,
has lately run through my mind which is attended
with embarrassment. It is whether my nonattendance at this convention will not
be considered as a dereliction to republicanism nay more
whether other motives may not, however injuriously, be ascribed
to me for not exerting myself on this occasion
in support of it. And he goes back and forth. And so, it’s wonderful letter. And, you know, George
Washington, it’s not language
that we hear today. But, the wishy washiness of
it is really incredible to me because take for granted
that George Washington went to the convention, that
he becomes the President of the Convention and he eventually becomes the
President of the United States. And, we assume that that’s
the way it was always going to work out. And, in this letter
to Henry Knox, we get a totally
different picture of what could’ve happened
because it’s so tentative. George Washington wasn’t
even sure he was going to go. And, he’s asking his
friend for some advice. So, that’s one of my all
time favorite letters. And, it’s buried within
thousands of other letters within the Washington
papers here at the library. The library also holds
papers related to many of the other delegates. I know that, as some of you
came in today, you saw some of our Alexander
Hamilton collection. So the library also holds the
papers of Alexander Hamilton. And again, all of them
are available as well. The library also holds a diary
of a man named James McHenry. And, if you go to
the exhibitions part of the library’s website, there’s a section called
Creating the United States. It was an exhibit that was here at the library a
number of years ago. And, featured in that
exhibit was this diary of this man named James McHenry. He as a delegate from Maryland. And, he wasn’t at the convention
for the entire duration. But, he kept a diary for
the period that he was. And, the reason I wanted
to show you this is because this was written
231 years ago today. So, it’s September
the 18th 1787. And, this is what he
records in his diary. I don’t know how
good you are reading, you know, our handwriting here. But, it says a lady asked
Dr. Franklin, well doctor, what have we got,
republic or a monarchy? A republic replied the
doctor, if you can keep it. You’ve probably heard
that story before. This is he only recording of that conversation
ever having happened in this man’s diary
that’s here at the library. And, this notion of
responsibility in terms of what kind of a
government do we got, well a republic if
we can keep it. That’s sort of the kind of conversation we’re
going to be having today. And, it is my absolute
pleasure to welcome Cynthia and Sandy Levinston who have
written the book that’s sitting at your tables. And, they’re going to be talking
with you briefly this morning about it, about their research
about their work, and then, give you an opportunity
to do some talking as well at your tables about some issues
related to the Constitution and its relevancy all
these 200 years later. So, Cynthia and Sandy
thank you for being here. It’s all yours.>>Thank you, let’s see. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Cynthia Levinson:
We want to thank Leanne and the Law Library, the
Leader’s Center, Karen, Jackie, many other people
here for inviting us. And, of course, we thank you
all very much for coming. You are he reason that
we wrote this book. And, I’m thinking having
from Barbara earlier, really I should’ve
gone to the Library of Congress Primary
Sources, even more than I did when we were researching
the book. But, I think Sandy would like to
make some comments about those.>>Sanford Levinson:
Yeah, the title, Fault Lines in the Constitution,
as many of you no doubt pick up, is an illusion to a
geological phenomenon that there are fault lines that
we don’t see buried in the land or in the oceans,
particularly the East Coast. We might not think of them because this is an earthquake
zone until and earthquake, I think several months
ago, happened in Delaware to the surprise of
many, many people. If one lives on the West
Coast, one is very familiar with earthquakes
and fault lines. And the idea that what you
ignore most of the time and, you know, live very happy
lives in San Francisco or LA or Seattle could, in
fact, come to an end if the fault line slipped. And so, that’s where
we get the title from that there are fault lines
within the Constitution, that, unfortunately, we
rarely think about. But, one of the points of the
book is that, if they slip, and one of the implicit
arguments is that they may be slipping in
front of our very eyes today, then, we are not, in
fact, all that well off. I want to make one comment
about the Knox letter and the reference also
Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, in 1775,
I suspect that many of you have heard the
soundtrack of Hamilton which I’ve probably listened
to, literally, 100 times. In 1775, depending on when you
think Alexander Hamilton was born, it was either 1755 or
1757, and people aren’t sure, he was either 18 or 20. And, even in 1787, when he
was an important delegate for the Constitutional
Convention, he would’ve been 30 or 32. George Washington was one of
the old men at the Convention. He was born in 1732, 1787, he
would’ve been 55 years old, which made him, relatively
speaking, old. And, he was more cautious. Old people tend to
be more cautious, younger people tend
to be more daring. And, nobody was more daring
than Alexander Hamilton or, for that matter, James Madison. So, one of the things you
should be thinking about and one of the reasons we
wrote the book is that it’s extraordinarily
important that people your age, who are going to spend
far, far more time living in the future United
States than I am, it’s simply an unfortunate
fact of life.>>Cynthia Levinson: It’s not
that unfortunate for them.>>Sanford Levinson:
That is true. That, we’re really talking about
your future and the importance of youngsters thinking about
the future and thinking about the fault lines. Yes, this is Constitution
Day, and, in our own way, we’re celebrating
Constitution Day. But, for me, at least, and
I think for Cynthia as well, part of the celebration is the
audacity of the framers thinking for themselves about
what needed to be done. So that, Alexander Hamilton,
for example, freely referred to the existing system of
government in 1787 as imbecilic. You don’t have to believe
tht our current form of government is
imbecilic in order to believe there might be fault
lines that should be examined and that the best way we
celebrate Constitution Day is to think, as I say, about
the courage and audacity of the framers and especially,
frankly, of the younger framers. George Washington never spoke
at the Constitutional Convention until the very last day. As the letter suggests,
his importance is that he was what will
later be called the Father of our Country. And, if he hadn’t been at the Convention it would’ve
been extraordinarily important because of who he was. But, otherwise, he was silent. That’s not true of the 30 year
old Hamilton the, I think, 36 year old Madison
and other people who were roughly the
same age or even younger. They were the ones
actively talking about the future really arguing
with one another losing battles. The framers did not all
agree with one another. They agreed, almost
all of them did agree that the Constitution
wasn’t perfect and that’s why there’s
an amendment clause. So, I want to put
Constitution Day and the framers and the importance
and our gratitude about you being here
in that context.>>Cynthia Levinson: And, you’ll
see, near the end of the time that we’re here together, that, we really take seriously the
need to take the Constitution and it’s fault lines seriously and to consider how
to change it. So, in our book, Fault
Lines in the Constitution, we talk about 18 fault lines. You’ll be glad to know
we’re not going to talk about all of those today. But, we are going to
talk about three of them. Sandy is a constitutional
scholar. I write for kids. And, I do a lot of
research, of course. And, even though Sandy’s been
working on this issue for well over 20 years, I don’t think
I had taken it so seriously until we wrote this
book together. I refer to us, on various
social media, as the coauthors. One of the fault lines that
I certainly did not think about nearly so seriously,
and as Sandy says, we do take this very
seriously, the need for change. One of the assumptions,
as Leanne says, we take the Constitution
for granted. But, one of the things I
seriously question and continue to is a basic part of the
Constitution, the Senate. So, how many of you,
say in the last week, raise your hand, had serial? A muffin? I had a chocolate
muffin this morning. A soft drink? Yeah, right, okay
a lot of hands up. What on earth does this have
to do with the U.S. Senate? Well, it actually
is closely related. All of these food items
have corn syrup in them. Corn syrup is not good for us. But, it’s in a lot
of foods that we eat. And, that’s related to the
Constitution to the Senate. So, how does that happen? Sandy do you want to give
the background to this?>>Sanford Levinson: Yes. It happens, frankly,
because there is legislation that subsidizes the
production of corn, therefore of corn syrup.>>Cynthia Levinson: I
wonder if you want to go back to the history and how we
ended up with two senators.>>Sanford Levinson:
Okay well I’ll get.>>Cynthia Levinson: Okay.>>Sanford Levinson: And so,
why do we have that legislation? The answer is not really
the House of Representatives where representation
is presentable. So, California has, I think,
54 members of Congress. We’re from Texas
most of the year, Texas has 36 members
of the House. So, where small states
have small numbers of representatives, there
are 7 states that have fewer that have more senators
than representatives, that is they have
one representative, the minimum number, but
they have two senators, because the Constitution says
each state gets two senators. So, you really have to
look at the Senate in order to understand a lot of
agricultural policy. There, it turns out that the
small population states also tend to be more rural than
the large population states. Texas has tons of
acreage but we also have 4 of the 11 largest
cities in the country. We’re the most, we’re the
densest state in the country, which most people don’t
realize that Texas is full of Ranches and things like that. But, the senators from the
upper Midwest, in particular, have lots of power in the Senate because of the each states gets
two senators rule and also, the nature of bicameralism
that we talk about. Pardon? Yep. That there are two houses
of Congress not one. And, for a bill to become a
law, both houses have to agree, every dotted I every
crossed T. Now, the Senate and the House are very
different, precisely, because House is
proportional, Senate is not. How’d that come about? It came about because of what
is often called the Great Compromise, capital
G, capital C, where the small states basically
said we’re going to walk out if you don’t give us equal
representation in the Senate. James Madison, so called
Father of the Constitution, thought this was
a terrible idea. He never, ever had
a good word to say about equal voting
power in the Senate. But, he did, ultimately,
agree to accept it because the alternative
would be no constitution. Let me point out that another
very, very important compromise that people never refer to
as a capital G capital C, Great Compromise,
was the one saying that slaves would be
counted as 3/5ths of person for computing the
voting power of states. And, this meant that slave
states got extra representation in the House of Representatives because their slaves were
counted as if they were really and truly being represented,
which of course they weren’t. But, they did help give
additional voting power to Virginia. And, that doe help to explain
why Thomas Jefferson instead of John Adams was
elected president in 1800. Both of these compromises
were central to having a Constitution at all. One of them, as I say, is often
called the Great Compromise, the other isn’t. But, what’s really important
is that people didn’t end up agreeing, you know,
it’s really a fined idea that Delaware should
have the same number of senators as Virginia. James Madison never agreed
that that was a fine idea, but, it was a price that had to be
paid, similarly with regard to the compromises over slavery. We live with both of
those compromises today in quite different ways. But, with the Senate,
in particular, we live with the compromise in that the small states
have what we regard as excessive voting
power in the Senate. And, the voting power
is translated to things like agricultural
bills or subsidies, protection for coal production. Because, not only are
the states small, but, it turns out that senators from small states
represent fewer interests. If, in fact, the small states
were really and truly as diverse as the large states, like Texas, then frankly it might
not matter. But, small states tend to
be far, far less diverse in ever measure of diversity
whether it’s the economic base, the tomography of the
population, small states tend to be whiter than Texas. We have the most diversity in
the country is Houston Texas. And, this has real implications
for why bills become law or why a lot of bills never
stand a chance of becoming law.>>Cynthia Levinson: So, there really are some
potentially dangerous consequences, from the
Senate, as it’s constructed. Every one of the
Fault Line’s chapters in the book starts
with the story. And, our story about
the U.S. Senate, which is the second
chapter, begins with 9/11. We recently observed the
17th anniversary of 9/11. After the attacks occurred
on the World Trade Center and in Shanksville and
right here in Washington DC, the president asked
Congress to allocate funding to protect important
sites, military sites and commercial sites
and that sort of thing around the country. The president who was in charge
of organizing that effort to allocate funding was
Senator Patrick Leahy from the itty bitty teeny
tiny state of Vermont. He had a lot of authority here. And, he could largely,
with some compromising, but largely control how
the money was going to go to the states, it
was getting assigned to protect buildings and people. He decided that, because he
came from a teeny tiny state, he did not want to
have the funding, the Patriot Act Funding,
it came to be called, to be allocated solely
on a proportional basis, that is the big states shouldn’t
get all the money compared to the small states. So, he made sure that
three quarters of a percent of all the funding,
as a baseline, went to every single state. And then, on top of
that, money went based, went to the state
based on population. But, every state
then got a baseline. And, that included
Washington DC. That meant that some states, an
arguably possibly Washington, ended up with some money that
it didn’t know what to do with. Well, Washington DC spent some
of its money on a rap song, that might have been
fun, you know. But, it’s a little hard to
understand how that was able to protect buildings
here or people. I think it was Montana or
Wyoming spent some money on a robot that they
named daisy. Another state spent some money
on an air conditioned van. On the other hand, some
states, like California, got much less funding
per capita than some of the small states did. This is, we’re showing you
some graphics from the book. And, this shows you
the comparison between per capita
funding between California and what’s the other state
here, Wyoming, thank you. One of the people we polled in
the book said, from a small, that is low population
state said we’ve got a lot of buildings here. Well yeah, but. So, this is one of the very
current examples of the effects of having two senators
per state.>>Sanford Levinson: Let me
just intervene with one thing. Those of you who are
familiar with politics and presumably people from
Washington are more familiar with politics than anywhere
else in the country, know that Patrick Leahy’s
a liberal democrat. And, the senator from
Texas is, both senators from Texas is conservative
republicans. But, it’s very important to
realize that, when it comes to bringing home the bacon
for one’s constituents, it may not matter all that much which political part
we’re talking about, that Senator Leahy or his colleague Bernie
Sanders are very good senators for Vermont. And, they’re very
concerned to make sure that Vermont gets
what it deserves and, from the perspective of people
that don’t live in Vermont, maybe more than it deserves. So, they’re, you know,
there are certainly ways in which it matters
whether people are democrat or republican. But, with the Senate, we
really do want to emphasize that it may matter whether
you come from a small state or a big state and the Senate
is certainly stacked, rigged, in favor of small states.>>Cynthia Levinson: Okay, so
we’ve just gotten the hi sign. We’re just going to go on
to a marathon here, dash. So, one of the other
graphics that we have for the book shows
the comparison. In 2016, more than half
the population got less than half the Senate
representation. This problem is going
to get worse. The project is that, in 2040 70% of the U.S. population
will live in 15 states. So, 70% of the population
will have only 30 senators. The rest of the population will
get the rest of the senators. So, here’s our corn
syrup graphic and how bad it is for you. Washington DC is
chapter six in the book. You’re probably very
familiar with this situation. I’m sure you know who
Congresswoman Norton is. She is looking frustrated
here because, undoubtedly, as you know, she can
speak, she cannot vote. I believe you made a reference
to Hamilton and whether or not you listened to the
soundtrack or seen the play. Well, it was about
Washington DC, that the song, it was in the room
where it happened, is about because
of a compromise. This is, of course, you know no
taxation without representation, this is your license
plates, right. And, we have a list of recent
grievances including the fact that Washington cannot control
its own budget or its own laws. Do you want to add
something to this?>>Sanford Levinson: Yeah. There has been a proposal to
make Washington DC a state. There is, frankly,
no possibility that the amendment required
to make Washington a state and therefore get you
one representative and two senators will ever pass
because of the small states or the large states that ca veto
any proposed amendment simply by getting one quarter
plus one of all the states. And so, for a variety of
reasons, largely political, here where being a democrat
or republican might matter, because there’s no doubt
that the two senators that are representative from
Washington will be democrats. But you should know that it
is, there is zero probability of a constitutional amendment
actually giving Washington representation in Congress
and a vote for legislation.>>Cynthia Levinson: So the
third fault line that we want to talk with you about today,
very quickly, is whether or not you can grow up to
be president or how grown up you have to be
to be president. It’s often said, everybody
in the United States, you can all grow
up to be president. Well, that’s not
necessarily the case. The story we tell in this
chapter is about John McCain who was not born on the
territorial United States, could he actually, when
he ran for president, if he had won, become president? It’s not absolutely clear. But, one of the major
fault lines that we take a look
at is age minimums. You have to be 35 years old. You have to have lived
in the United States for at least 14 years. Senator McCain raised
the question in the U.S. what is
that, where is that? And, you have to be a
natural born citizen, which is totally unexplained. We need to run. This is France, we need to
run through this, let me. In France, in order to run
for president, you just need to be 18 years old and
have a bank account. The French are really serious
about their bank accounts. There were, until very recently,
two states in the country that did not have an age minimum
for running for governor. So, for instance, in Kansas,
Jack Ferguson ran for Governor. He was 16 and he ran with
a high school classmate of his, Alex Kline. They were, they actually
ultimately, 6 teenagers in Kansas
ran for governor. During the primary season, the Kansas Legislature
changed its laws. But, Alex and Jack were
allowed to participate in a couple of the debates. The others, for some
reason, were not. One of the things
that Jack said was, after he lost the
primary, please go vote. A democracy only works when
the citizens are engaged in the process. Another state that still
does not have an age minimum for running for governor
is Vermont. And, here is Ethan
Sonneborn who, at 13, ran for Governor of Vermont. And, he got in the primary
just last month in August, he got 8% of the
vote state wide. So, we’re very proud, yeah.>>Sanford Levinson:
Why is this important? It’s kind of fun
and entertaining. But, participation in
debate is very significant. And, it’s no secret that
there are differences between people your age and people even 35 let
alone the current Congress where most people are
well, well over 35. It would be very interesting
and perhaps even important if people your age or closer to
your age actually participated in senatorial debates or
presidential debates and brought up the kinds of issues
that are relevant to you and might be quite
different that issues that are most salient
to people like me. The age limits have the
consequence of barring people from being heard during the
run up to elections even if, as in Vermont, you know, the,
Ethan got only 8% and he was, nobody ever thought
he would win. But, he was able to articulate, he’s a very articulate
young man, issues that are really
important.>>Cynthia Levinson: So,
the question is now what? And, we turn this over to you. [Inaudible] said, I know the
forefathers said you have the right to own a gun but they
also said you can own people. Look, the Constitution’s a lot
like our grandfather, he’s wise and he means well but he’s
getting really, really old. And, every once in a while
he says something crazy and they got to go
to the other room and discuss what we’re
going to do about him. So, we are giving
you the opportunity to discuss what we’re going
to do about the Constitution. Sasha Doughty, I believe
is going to organize you.>>Lee Ann Potter:
She left that to me.>>Cynthia Levinson:
Oh Lee Ann is, okay.>>Barbara Davis: She’s going
to bring the questions out. All right so, at your tables
you, each table is going to get a question, two tables
will have the same question, so we actually have three
questions floating out there. And, at your tables, what we’d
like you to do is just first, take a minute to read your
question, think a little bit about what your reaction
to the question is, and then start a conversation at
your table about your question. And, ultimately, we’d
love it if one person from each table could
be your scribe. So, we’ve got flip boards
adjacent to each of the tables, if you could jot down, you
know, like a brain storm, ideas that people have in, you
know, reaction to the question. And then, at about 11:30,
11:35ish we’re going to ask that one person from each
table to sort of report out about what your
table talked about. And then, it’d be great if
somebody could certainly, we’ll walk around too and
tell you want time it is and how much time you’ve got. But, keep an eye on how
much time you’ve got. You’ve basically got 20
minutes to have a conversation about the question that’s been
posed, brain storm your reaction to it and then report back
to the rest of us about it.>>Cynthia Levinson: And could
you mention the blog also?>>Barbara Davis: And
then, once we report out, Sandy and Cynthia have a blog
associated with the book. And, they have agreed to make
their next blog post come out of your discussions today. So, we’re going to
also ask you to vote on what topic you think
they ought to describe in their next blog post. And, we’ll do that at the end
of our conversation as well. So, you’ve got about
20 minutes, go ahead and just start talking
to each other. And, I know you can tell, I can
tell watching your body language that it’s time for
you guys to talk. So, it’s your turn, talk.>>You should have, it
should be a requirement but you should also have
a high school education to help you like
form your ideas.>>I thought we should mention
we’re actually in the process of fixing these problems. And, it forces you it not
only [inaudible] it forces you to actually address
those problems, find the problems and fix them.>>So we said like how many
[inaudible] what would be the best thing to do.>>Cynthia Levinson: So,
this is a great discussion. I love hearing all of this. Thank you so much. You should know that in the
second to the last chapter of the book, Sandy and I
actually debate this question of whether or not
to have another Constitutional Convention. There’s an audio of the book. And, in the audio we
actually really did get to debate each other. My, actually we were
talking earlier about what our biggest arguments
were while we were writing the book. One was that, the
other was whether to pronounce it gerrymander
or gerrymander. But, we’ll reprise briefly for
you what our arguments were about a constitutional
amendment, a constitutional
convention or not. Sandy do you want
to take the lead?>>Sanford Levinson: Yeah, for
a variety of reasons, Congress, I think, is nearly
hopeless as a source of really serious discussion about potential constitutional
reform. Some of this has to do
with the fact that members of Congress benefit
from current structures. So, Cynthia mentions our debate about gerrymandering
or gerrymandering. But, the important thing is
that the house is structured in such a way that, I
think, has all sorts of unfortunate consequences. It’s unrealistic to believe the
House would really address this. Secondly, even if one is
less cynical about members of Congress, they’re
extraordinarily busy and don’t have the time
to take, literally, months or even a
year, to discuss, with sufficient seriousness,
the kinds of questions, frankly, that we raise in the book. Alexander Hamilton writes
in the very first paragraph, the very first federalist
paper in 1787, that the great challenge facing
Americans but also the model that Americans can present to the world is whether
we are capable of engaging in reflection and choice
about how to be governed. And really, the wonderful
thing about 1787, 1788 is that there was intense
reflection in choice at least by those people, white males,
who were viewed as part of the political class. But, they were at each
other’s throats with regard to very basic discussions. I believe that the only
way to get the kind of truly serious
reflection and choice that we need 231 years later is through another constitutional
convention. Cynthia disagrees.>>Cynthia Levinson:
I think it’s nuts. The framers have
absolutely no idea of how this would take place. They just said there could
be another way to do this. There’s no way to know how
they delegates would be chosen, what authority they have. You may have specific
issues you don’t like about the Constitution
or not, you know, a couple of groups said our
country’s been fine so far. Well there was this
matter of the Civil War. But, except for that
and some other things, you might think the
Constitution’s fine in general but have a couple
specific questions, maybe about the Second
Amendment for instance. But, there’s no way to,
once you open it up, once you have a constitutional
convention, just the way the framers
completely overturned the Articles of Confederation, the whole thing could
be up for grabs. I would say we might risk
losing the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech. Sandy thinks that
wouldn’t happen. But, who knows? So, I just think it’s too risky. And, that’s the debate,
basically, that we have going
back and forth in the last chapter of the book. Second to the last chapter. In the last chapter, actually, we give the Constitution
a grade. And, we invite you, as
you read through the book, to think about what your grade
for the Constitution would be. We based it on our device,
our guidelines for how to judge the Constitution
is the preamble. So, we invite you to look
closely at the preamble as the values basis
for the Constitution and grade it according to how well you think
it meets those goals for the Constitution. We would love, there
may be another end here by the library people,
we would love to know if you have any ideas
for our blog. We blog twice a month. We’re going to ask your
teacher’s librarians over here if they would like to
sign up for the blog. And, we would like your ideas so that our next blog would
be, can come from you.>>Lee Ann Potter: On behalf
of the Library of Congress, we are so happy that you were
able to come this morning and that you participated
as actively as you did. I can’t tell you how
exciting it is really, I mean, young people talking about our
Constitution is exactly what needs to be happening. And, the fact that we were doing that today makes me
very, very happy. And, I hope you had a, I hope
you had fun at the library. The Library of Congress can be a
pretty imposing and scary place. And, we don’t want it to be. We want it to be a
really welcoming place. We want it to be a place
where you are excited to come and that you want to come and
not only participate in programs but you can also come
and do research as well. And, of course, we want you to
all become our interns one day and then our colleagues. First of all thank you again
to the Levinsons thanks to all of you, hope you have a terrific
Constitution Day and a big shout out at your teachers
to getting you here. Thank you all very, very much.>>Barbara Davis: Thank you.

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