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Who cares about the Constitution? | Jeffrey Rosen

Who cares about the Con­sti­tu­tion? Jeff Rosen has devot­ed his life to explain­ing why our gov­ern­ing char­ter mat­ters to every­one. As pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, he’s empow­ered mil­lions of peo­ple to bet­ter under­stand our country’s his­to­ry and pur­pose. Let’s see what Jeff believes about inspir­ing a new gen­er­a­tion to uphold America’s ideals.

Key Moments

  • 03:30 How vital was the establishment of the US Constitution?
  • 08:14 Why didn't the articles of confederation work?
  • 15:05 Why wasn't the Bill of Rights originally included?
  • 18:55 How did the Constitution provide for the expansion of these rights over time?
  • 26:35 How did Frederick Douglass view the Constitution?
  • 33:48 Why isn't our government functioning as the Constitution originally intended?
  • 40:48 What's wrong with the Courts today? Why has the balance of power shifted so significantly?
  • 46:27 How can the National Constitution Center help us come together and discuss these questions?
Show Full Transcript

Full Episode Transcript

- Hi every­one, I’m Doug DeVos and wel­come back to Believe!” Today my guest is Jeff Rosen. He’s the pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, and his work has empow­ered tens of mil­lions of peo­ple to bet­ter under­stand our coun­try’s his­to­ry and pur­pose. So I wan­na know, and I’d love to know who cares about the Con­sti­tu­tion? Does it still mat­ter today? And how does it affect all of us as indi­vid­u­als and cit­i­zens? Well, I’ve won­dered about this a lot and I just love this top­ic. I’m so curi­ous about it. So let’s see what Jeff Rosen believes.

- [Announc­er] We believe and have always believed in this coun­try, that man was cre­at­ed in the image of God, that he was giv­en tal­ent and respon­si­bil­i­ty and was instruct­ed to use them to make this world a bet­ter place in which to live. And you see, this is the real­ly great thing of America.

- It’s time to dis­cov­er what binds us togeth­er, and find­ing it has the pow­er to trans­form our world. That’s what I believe, how about you? Well, hel­lo every­one, and wel­come to Believe!” I’m Doug DeVos and we’re thrilled to have you back here with us again. Today’s top­ic is a won­der­ful top­ic and I’m real­ly excit­ed to dive into it. We’re gonna be talk­ing about some­thing that impacts every Amer­i­can, and that’s the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. And the ques­tion is, how does it real­ly affect you? You know it is the guid­ing doc­u­ment for our coun­try, and you may hear a lot of things about it here and there, but a lot of peo­ple may not know the ins and outs, or may not know the his­to­ry of it or how it real­ly is alive today. So our main ques­tion is who cares about the Con­sti­tu­tion? Do you care about the Con­sti­tu­tion? Do you believe that it’s impor­tant in your life and for the good of our coun­try? So where do you stand on this? We’re gonna have some fun times to talk about this, to dive into it, and I’ve been on an adven­ture here with the Con­sti­tu­tion for a num­ber of years. I’ve been absolute­ly hon­ored to be on the Board of Trustees of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter in Philadel­phia. And we’re here today with the cen­ter’s CEO, Jef­frey Rosen. And Jeff is not only a fab­u­lous CEO, but he is a good friend, and I just so enjoy talk­ing with him about these issues, and what’s hap­pen­ing here in our coun­try. And when we get togeth­er as trustees, there’s so much pas­sion around the top­ic of the Con­sti­tu­tion and around our coun­try and how we believe in our coun­try. And we are from all sorts of dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal back­grounds, but that has nev­er stopped us from uni­fy­ing around the Con­sti­tu­tion and what it means and how to share and talk about it, so we can try to answer that ques­tion a lit­tle bit of who cares about the Con­sti­tu­tion. And we hope as we go through this, that you’ll have a new appre­ci­a­tion and under­stand­ing. So Jeff wel­come. We’re so hap­py to have you on the show here. Thank you for tak­ing the time to join us.

- Thank you, Doug. It’s won­der­ful to be with you.

- All righty. Well Jeff, we’re gonna dive on in, and this is kind of reflec­tive of con­ver­sa­tions that we’ve had over a cup of cof­fee or at din­ner, or over times over the years, because I con­tin­ue to be just so curi­ous about this doc­u­ment. Maybe just start with fram­ing things a lit­tle bit of how does it fit in, because maybe for some of our audi­ence, that path­way from the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence, through the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, to the U.S Con­sti­tu­tion, a lot of stuff hap­pened in those years, and there was quite a span of time. And just maybe how the devel­op­ment and the estab­lish­ment of the Con­sti­tu­tion was so vital for the start­ing and the found­ing of our country.

- Well, thanks so much for ask­ing Doug, it’s won­der­ful to be with you. We’ve been on a jour­ney togeth­er as we strive to edu­cate Amer­i­cans about the Con­sti­tu­tion, and empow­er all Amer­i­cans to teach the them­selves about its fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples. So it’s so mean­ing­ful as you ask to say what’s the con­nec­tion between the Dec­la­ra­tion and the Con­sti­tu­tion, and what hap­pened dur­ing those cru­cial years between 1776 and 1787 to enshrine the core of Amer­i­can ideals into the great­est doc­u­ment of human free­dom in his­to­ry. So let’s see how fast I can do it. Let’s give the con­densed ver­sion. We’ve got­ta start in 1776 with those inspir­ing words of the Dec­la­ra­tion, which we all know by heart. All men are cre­at­ed equal. They are endowed by their cre­ator with cer­tain unalien­able rights that among these are life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness, and that to secure these rights, gov­ern­ments are insti­tut­ed among men. In those beau­ti­ful claus­es are con­tained three big ideas, nat­ur­al rights, pop­u­lar sov­er­eign­ty, and the rule of law. And that’s the core of the Amer­i­can ideas. So let’s quick­ly parse them and then we’ll show the con­nec­tion with the Con­sti­tu­tion. Nat­ur­al rights. Our rights come from God or nature, not from gov­ern­ment. They’re inher­ent in who we are. We have them as human beings and they’re uni­ver­sal rights. What are those rights? Well they include life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. Those rights are unalien­able. What does it mean to have an unalien­able right? It means I can’t alien­ate or sur­ren­der it to you Doug or to gov­ern­ment or to any­one else when I move from the state of nature to form a civ­il soci­ety or a gov­ern­ment. What what’s an exam­ple of an unalien­able right? The most basic one is right to con­science, the right to free exer­cise of reli­gion, the right to form my own beliefs about the nature of the uni­verse. Why are my beliefs and thoughts unalien­able? Because they’re the prod­uct of my rea­son, and as the prod­uct of my rea­son, I can’t com­mand myself or any­one else about what to think. Our thoughts are the prod­uct of rea­son, and I can’t sur­ren­der my rea­son­ing pow­ers to you. And that’s why the right is unalien­able, and that’s why the rights of con­science and the rights of reli­gious belief are among the first of our unalien­able rights. The oth­er ones are life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness, and I form gov­ern­ments to secure those rights. And that leads to the sec­ond big idea, which is pop­u­lar sov­er­eign­ty. Because we’re all born free and equal, every­one has an equal right to con­sent to gov­ern­ment. And because gov­ern­ment is based on con­sent, the ulti­mate pow­er resides in We the Peo­ple, and We the Peo­ple are the rulers. Our rep­re­sen­ta­tives are just our ser­vants, and any­time our rep­re­sen­ta­tives are not doing what we like We can recall them with new elec­tions, and if the gov­ern­ment is threat­en­ing our rights, rather than pro­tect­ing them, well the Dec­la­ra­tion says we have the right of rev­o­lu­tion, and that’s what the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion was about. And the final idea is the rule of law, that in order to secure our rights, gov­ern­ment has to oper­ate accord­ing to laws that are pre­dictable, trans­par­ent. It can’t treat you dif­fer­ent­ly than me because it does­n’t like you and vice ver­sa. And we have to ensure that all of our rights are judged by fair pro­ce­dures, tri­als, due process. And the gov­ern­ment can’t act arbi­trar­i­ly. It’s the oppo­site of a despot is to have a mag­is­trate or a pres­i­dent or Con­gress bound by the rule of the law. So those are the three big ideas. We can talk about the tran­si­tion from the Dec­la­ra­tion to the Con­sti­tu­tion, but I think I’ve been talk­ing long enough. So what do you think of all that Doug?

- Well, I think our audi­ence knows exact­ly why you’re the per­fect per­son to talk about these sorts of things. So thank you for that and how impor­tant it is to under­stand not just what those words are, but the ideas behind those words. What was the mood, the envi­ron­ment and the thought that went into choos­ing those words and what they real­ly mean and why they’ve been so time­less. But talk about how those words, they start­ed a rev­o­lu­tion. We got on that track, but we had to find a way to secure and to land a frame­work under which all these things could hap­pen, where we could pre­serve our nat­ur­al rights, where we could estab­lish pop­u­lar sov­er­eign­ty, where we could estab­lish the rule of law. And that was the Con­sti­tu­tion. Cause the Arti­cles of Con­fed­er­a­tion did­n’t cut it. Talk about that a lit­tle bit.

- Exact­ly, exact­ly right. And I’m so glad you picked up on that word secure, to secure these rights. That’s why gov­ern­ments are insti­tut­ed among men. And as you said, the Arti­cles of Con­fed­er­a­tion did­n’t cut it. The Arti­cles of Con­fed­er­a­tion were a loose treaty that treat­ed all the states as sov­er­eign. The states are very keen to main­tain their pow­er, and as a result, they made it very hard to do any­thing. You need­ed unan­i­mous con­sent of all 13 states to do any­thing impor­tant. And that made it impos­si­ble to raise mon­ey, to sup­port the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, to achieve com­mon defense or to make treaties, and as a result, there was a lot of uncer­tain­ty and inabil­i­ty to have com­merce and an inabil­i­ty to pay the war debts. That led to an eco­nom­ic cri­sis, it led to of unrest, and in par­tic­u­lar, it led to mob vio­lence. And it’s real­ly impor­tant to empha­size how impor­tant this fear of mobs ani­mat­ed by pas­sion rather than rea­son was the dri­ving force for the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion. So the big mob that real­ly got every­one upset was in 1787 in West­ern Mass­a­chu­setts, there were a bunch of farm­ers led by a guy called Daniel Shays who are upset because they can’t pay their cred­i­tors. They fought in Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, but they haven’t been paid because there’s no cen­tral gov­ern­ment to pay them. There’s a lot of infla­tion and they’re so upset cause they’re being charged with bank­rupt­cy that they mob the bank­rupt­cy courts in Mass­a­chu­setts and they try to shut down the courts. And that real­ly gets the framer’s atten­tion. And James Madi­son is so alarmed by this vision of mob shut­ting down gov­ern­ment build­ings, that he writes in Fed­er­al­ist 55 In all large assem­blies of any char­ac­ter, com­posed pas­sion nev­er fails to rest the scepter from rea­son. Even if every Athen­ian had been Socrates, Athens would still have been a mob.” What he’s try­ing to fig­ure out is how you cre­ate a gov­ern­ment that is con­strained enough to pro­tect rights, but also pow­er­ful enough to achieve com­mon pur­pos­es and to avoid the mob. And Madis­on’s great inno­va­tion, and this is his cen­tral con­tri­bu­tion to our polit­i­cal thought, and to the Amer­i­can idea, is to turn clas­si­cal polit­i­cal the­o­ry on its head. The con­ven­tion­al wis­dom had been, you could only have republics or rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cies in small areas where every­one knows each oth­er, where they can delib­er­ate and they have com­mon pur­pos­es. Madi­son says actu­al­ly it’s the oppo­site. It’s a real advan­tage that Amer­i­ca is so big. Because the coun­try is so big, it’ll be hard for mobs to dis­cov­er each oth­er, to orga­nize. And by the time they actu­al­ly find each oth­er, maybe they’ll all get tired and go home. A larg­er repub­lic, Madi­son says will ensure the slow dif­fu­sion of rea­son. And Doug, in your intro­duc­tion, you used anoth­er real­ly impor­tant word. You talk about the pas­sion that you and I have for edu­cat­ing peo­ple about the Con­sti­tu­tion. Pas­sion can be good, but only when it’s fil­tered through delib­er­a­tion, and we have to use our pow­ers of rea­son to mod­er­ate our unrea­son­able pas­sions like anger and remorse and jeal­ousy and revenge, in order to achieve cool delib­er­a­tive rea­son. This comes from a Aris­to­tle and Pla­to and the Sto­ics and clas­si­cal polit­i­cal the­o­ry, that need to tri­umph of rea­son over pas­sion. So the whole Con­sti­tu­tion is designed to slow down delib­er­a­tion, so mobs can’t form as they did in Shays’ Rebel­lion, and that rea­son will slow­ly pre­vail. And that’s why our Con­sti­tu­tion sets up such an intri­cate, com­pli­cat­ed set of mech­a­nisms. Pow­er resides in We the Peo­ple, that’s what the pre­am­ble says, We the Peo­ple of the Unit­ed States in order to form a more per­fect union,” but we par­cel out our pow­er tem­porar­i­ly to a bunch of dif­fer­ent places. Con­gress has some of it, the Pres­i­dent has some of it. The courts have the abil­i­ty to ensure that all laws are con­sis­tent with the Con­sti­tu­tion. And then there’s a ver­ti­cal divi­sion of pow­er also between the states and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. All this is to ensure that no one branch is allowed to speak for We the Peo­ple. Who speaks for We the Peo­ple? The Con­sti­tu­tion does. This was the great genius of the framers to say that because the Con­sti­tu­tion is passed accord­ing to spe­cial pro­ce­dures, you have to sub­mit it to spe­cial rat­i­fy­ing con­ven­tions. You hold spe­cial elec­tions for those rat­i­fy­ing con­ven­tions. Peo­ple have to delib­er­ate exten­sive­ly over time to make sure that it real­ly rep­re­sents the con­sid­ered delib­er­ate views of We the Peo­ple. That’s why the Con­sti­tu­tion speaks for We the Peo­ple and not our tem­po­rary rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Con­gress. The peo­ple in Con­gress are just our, Hamil­ton used the word our ser­vants. We are the mas­ters, they are the ser­vants, and any time there’s a clash between the will of the peo­ple and the will of our rep­re­sen­ta­tives, courts should pre­fer the mas­ter to the ser­vant, the prin­ci­pal to the agent. That’s what Hamil­ton says in Fed­er­al­ist 78. So wow, what an extra­or­di­nary inno­va­tion and appli­ca­tion of all of this wis­dom the framers had. And that’s the gist of the goals of the Constitution.

- Yeah, oh fan­tas­tic, thank you. Jeff, you touch on so many issues, and I’m already know­ing we’re gonna have to have many con­ver­sa­tions because this is just so fun to dive into, because the his­to­ry is impor­tant, and today, peo­ple it’s easy to kin­da go back and say, well, his­to­ry’s past, we’re all about the future. That’s true, but the lessons of his­to­ry, and even our framers went back to Aris­to­tle and Pla­to and they thought about all these exper­i­ments that had hap­pened in human his­to­ry to try to learn the best. And I love how they inno­vat­ed. They turned some things around and said no, it can work in a big coun­try. Well, I wan­na talk about some of those things that we may be fac­ing now with mob rule and oth­er sorts of things in a lit­tle while, but I wan­na stay with estab­lish­ing a foun­da­tion for every­body as we’re lis­ten­ing here, because there was a lot of con­ver­sa­tion at the time with the Con­sti­tu­tion that it did­n’t include the artic­u­la­tion of spe­cif­ic rights. That the Con­sti­tu­tion was the frame­work for the oper­a­tion of the gov­ern­ment, and that the Bill of Rights was always talked about, but not includ­ed orig­i­nal­ly. It was­n’t until some­time after that the Bill of Rights, or how those two got con­nect­ed. And so maybe talk about that jump to specif­i­cal­ly call­ing out the rights of indi­vid­u­als as part of the Con­sti­tu­tion through these first amendments.

- It’s such an excit­ing and impor­tant top­ic. So as you say, the orig­i­nal Con­sti­tu­tion did­n’t have a Bill of Rights. Why not? Real­ly impor­tant ques­tion. Well James Madi­son said there were two rea­sons why he did­n’t orig­i­nal­ly include a Bill of Rights. First, a Bill of Rights is unnec­es­sary. There’s no rea­son to fear that Con­gress could infringe free speech, cause Con­gress has no pow­er to infringe free speech. It’s only grant­ed lim­it­ed pow­ers, and there­fore we don’t have to wor­ry about that. And sec­ond Madi­son said it might be dan­ger­ous to cre­ate a list of rights. Because our rights come from God or nature, not from gov­ern­ment, peo­ple might wrong­ly assume if you have a list of rights, that’s all there are. And in fact our rights are so capa­cious, so exten­sive that they can’t be lim­it­ed to a sin­gle list. So that was his orig­i­nal rea­son for not includ­ing a Bill of Rights, but there were vig­or­ous objec­tions from a group of founders called the Anti-Fed­er­al­ists. These are heroes with names like Elbridge Ger­ry of Mass­a­chu­setts, and George Mason of Vir­ginia, and Edmond Ran­dolph of Vir­ginia, who refused to sign the Con­sti­tu­tion, cause it did­n’t have a Bill of Rights. And in the face of their objec­tions, Madi­son changed his mind. He was prac­ti­cal politi­cian. He was also at that point try­ing to win an elec­tion in Vir­ginia. And he real­ized that the rat­i­fy­ing con­ven­tions were say­ing, yes, we’ll rat­i­fy, but we want you to adopt a Bill of Rights as a con­di­tion of rat­i­fi­ca­tion. And faced with that objec­tion, he said fine. Now what’s so inter­est­ing here is that when Madi­son set out to draft a Bill of Rights, he did­n’t start from scratch. He basi­cal­ly cut and past­ed from the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary era, state con­sti­tu­tions and bills of rights draft­ed between 1776 and 1780, which was the Mass­a­chu­setts Con­sti­tu­tion. And if our friends who are lis­ten­ing just won a open up a world of learn­ing, it’s so excit­ing to go and exam­ine those bills of rights, which you can find at the Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter web­site, con​sti​tu​tion​cen​ter​.org. And you’ll see that often it’s word for word. The Vir­ginia Dec­la­ra­tion of Rights in 1776 is the place to start. Madi­son had it by his side when he draft­ed the Bill of Rights, and Thomas Jef­fer­son had it by his side when he draft­ed the Dec­la­ra­tion. And I won’t go through the word by word com­par­isons, but you’ll see that our free exer­cise of reli­gion clause comes from the Vir­ginia Dec­la­ra­tion. Our Fourth Amend­ment pro­tect­ing unrea­son­able search­es and seizures comes from the Mass­a­chu­setts Bill of Rights. And there’s just so much con­sen­sus among the states about which rights are nat­ur­al, which are alien­able, which are unalien­able, which ones should be pro­tect­ed, that it was­n’t hard for Madi­son to come up with a list of, well, it was 12 rights that were admit­ted to Con­gress. His ini­tial list had 19 rights. It’s real­ly inter­est­ing to see which ones dropped out and which ones were adopt­ed, but 10 were final­ly rat­i­fied. And those are the rights that we call the Bill of Rights.

- Fan­tas­tic. I mean that link­age is just, and that con­nec­tion and the argu­ing or not the argu­ing, the dis­cus­sion, the rea­soned delib­er­a­tive debate on this top­ic of how it was so impor­tant to include those. Now let’s kind of start to roll this for­ward a lit­tle bit. One of the things I’ve so enjoyed at the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter and talk­ing with Jeff and trustees and oth­er experts that I’ve had the hon­or of hear­ing from, learn­ing from was this strug­gle in our coun­try to have every­one feel that those rights or these ideas applied to them. And when you go to the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter in Philadel­phia, and I would sug­gest every­body go vis­it the muse­um, it’s mag­nif­i­cent, but the orig­i­nal, the wel­com­ing act that we have that wel­comes you to the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, artic­u­lates that right off the bat, there were some things, glar­ing things that we missed. Slav­ery, wom­en’s rights. There were some huge things where this idea or the promise of the Dec­la­ra­tion or the Con­sti­tu­tion or the Bill of Rights was­n’t applied fair­ly, or was­n’t applied to every­body. And I think Jeff, there’s a cou­ple sto­ries that I remem­ber Jeff, we had a dis­play there for the First Amend­ment, and we were talk­ing about the free­dom of reli­gion and you said, well, of course it did­n’t apply to those of Jew­ish faith at this point. And I was shocked, I said well what do you mean? It says right here. No, but it was­n’t. There was the appli­ca­tion of it. And obvi­ous­ly we have had addi­tion­al exhibits and exhi­bi­tions at the Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter of the 13th, 14th than 15th Amend­ment, and of the 19th Amend­ment, and how this ongo­ing jour­ney and this pas­sion to say hey, this applies to me. And that’s kind of again where our open­ing ques­tion comes from, who cares about the Con­sti­tu­tion? We all do, because we all wan­na be part of this, but that’s been a jour­ney and a tumul­tuous jour­ney. Talk a lit­tle bit, if you can, about some of those steps and about what we’ve learned by under­stand­ing these restric­tions or these mis­takes, how­ev­er you want to call it, from the begin­ning, and how we’ve tried to adapt through the Con­sti­tu­tion to make sure that these words, these free­doms, these ideas apply to everybody.

- Absolute­ly, Doug, you’re so right to empha­size the cru­cial­ly impor­tant ways in which those soar­ing ideals of the Dec­la­ra­tion and the Con­sti­tu­tion did not ini­tial­ly include all of We the Peo­ple. And as you say, the most glar­ing and shame­ful ini­tial omis­sion was the omis­sion or exclu­sion from enslaved peo­ple from the promis­es of the Dec­la­ra­tion. What’s so strik­ing about the con­ven­tion and the debates over the Dec­la­ra­tion is that the founders knew this. Thomas Jef­fer­son said, I trem­ble for my coun­try when I reflect that God is just.” Oth­er framers stood up and explic­it­ly said that the sys­tem of chat­tel slav­ery was incon­sis­tent with nat­ur­al rights. James Wil­son, the great founder who came up with the words of the pre­am­ble, We the Peo­ple of the Unit­ed States insist­ed that slav­ery was a vio­la­tion of nat­ur­al rights. Now of course at the ini­tial con­ven­tion, there were unfor­tu­nate com­pro­mis­es that were nec­es­sary to get the doc­u­ment rat­i­fied. And they includ­ed infa­mous claus­es, like the 35 clause of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which count­ed enslaved peo­ple as 35 of a per­son for pur­pos­es of appor­tion­ment to the fugi­tive slave laws. What’s sig­nif­i­cant though, is that James Madi­son said in notes that were dis­cov­ered in 1840, which when they were pub­lished, that the Con­sti­tu­tion refused to insert in its text an explic­it acknowl­edge­ment that there could be what Madi­son called prop­er­ty in men. In oth­er words, the framers did­n’t want to explic­it­ly endorse slav­ery, even as they did­n’t ban it. Madi­son and the oth­er framers hoped that it would come in time to be extin­guished. When Fred­er­ick Dou­glass read Madis­on’s notes pub­lished for the first time in 1840, and saw that the Con­sti­tu­tion had refused to rec­og­nize prop­er­ty in men. He said it changed his own vision of him­self as a man and as a cit­i­zen. And he changed his views about the Con­sti­tu­tion itself. Pre­vi­ous­ly, he had thought that it was a pro-slav­ery doc­u­ment, but after he read Madis­on’s notes, he decid­ed it was a glo­ri­ous lib­er­ty doc­u­ment. And he said it was a libel on the founders to claim that they had endorsed slav­ery, and Dou­glass said that he want­ed to call on the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States to be true to the promise of the Dec­la­ra­tion, and to ensure that just as we rec­og­nize that all men are cre­at­ed equal, the sys­tem of chat­tel slav­ery would be abol­ished by Con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment. And that’s pre­cise­ly what hap­pened in the 13th 14th, 15th Amend­ments. So of course we’re hav­ing a very mean­ing­ful and impor­tant debate in this coun­try now about what we should think about the his­to­ry of slav­ery in Amer­i­ca, as well as the exclu­sion of oth­er groups, like women who could­n’t ini­tial­ly vote at the time of the fram­ing. What’s so strik­ing about Amer­i­can his­to­ry is the more you learn, both the more you’re struck by how seri­ous the strife was. I mean it took a civ­il war to end slav­ery, but also how con­sis­tent­ly exclud­ed groups invoked the prin­ci­ples of the Dec­la­ra­tion and the Con­sti­tu­tion to be includ­ed. Jus­tice Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg had a beau­ti­ful word. She said that the Con­sti­tu­tion was always becom­ing more embracive, by which she meant it was embrac­ing pre­vi­ous­ly exclud­ed groups, not just grudg­ing­ly, but with open arms. And she argued as his­to­ry shows, that those pre­vi­ous­ly exclud­ed groups from Dou­glass invok­ing the Dec­la­ra­tion and his What to a Slave is the 4th of July” speech to the wom­en’s suf­frage advo­cates invok­ing the Dec­la­ra­tion their Dec­la­ra­tion of Sen­ti­ments in 1848, to Mar­tin Luther King on The Mall say­ing that we had to ful­fill the promis­so­ry note of the Dec­la­ra­tion and ensure that the Con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­teed civ­il rights. All of these heroes all invoked the ideals and called on Amer­i­ca to be true to its best self, and slow­ly, in some cas­es, grudg­ing­ly, but ulti­mate­ly with open arms as Jus­tice Gins­burg said, that’s exact­ly what happened.

- So impor­tant to rec­og­nize that jour­ney and in how bit­ter and how dif­fi­cult it is, any­one in life, any of us in life, if we’re on the out­side look­ing in, what­ev­er that may be, it’s so vital for us to under­stand that process. And one of the things that struck me, and Jeff, you have a won­der­ful pod­cast, the We the Peo­ple” pod­cast, and every­body you should sign up and lis­ten to Jeff on the We the Peo­ple” pod­cast from the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter, just bril­liant. And you touched on it here, and I’d like you to dive in a lit­tle more deeply. When you talk about Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, and you talk about that speech, What to the slave is the 4th of July,” and the sig­nif­i­cance of that. And I wan­na pull out this idea that he goes back to defend­ing and elab­o­rat­ing on the ideas of the Con­sti­tu­tion, but mak­ing them real. And one of your guests on the pod­cast start­ed to talk about how Fred­er­ick Dou­glass was I think work­ing with Pres­i­dent Grant or chal­leng­ing, with Pres­i­dent Grant to say, just because the war is won, the work is not done. There there’s more to do. And it goes with the imple­men­ta­tion of these ideas, and the appli­ca­tion through­out his­to­ry. And while the 13th and 14th and 15th Amend­ment were rat­i­fied, it real­ly had dif­fer­ent jour­neys. We had a great con­ver­sa­tion with Dr. Gates about what hap­pened in this time, where things stalled and actu­al­ly revert­ed, because the appli­ca­tion, the fol­low through from the 13th and 14th and 15th Amend­ment got stalled, or did­n’t hap­pen as it should. Can you talk about that a lit­tle bit more and help our audi­ence kind of appre­ci­ate that time in our nation’s his­to­ry and some of the things that were going on and how some­body like Fred­er­ick Dou­glass who was just so pow­er­ful, how he could still, even though he had lived that life, how he could still go back to sup­port­ing those ideas?

- It’s so cru­cial, Doug. And I love the fact that you’re quot­ing Dou­glass, and we both believe that pri­ma­ry texts are so impor­tant to inspire us and put us into the minds of the peo­ple who are expe­ri­enc­ing this. So I’m just call­ing up my Fred­er­ick Dou­glass here. Here’s from the What to a Slave is the 4th of July” speech. This is kind of from ran­dom, this just pulled right up. What then remains to be argued is if that slav­ery is not divine, that God did not estab­lish it, that our good doc­tors are divin­i­ty are mis­tak­en, there’s blas­phe­my in the thought. That which is inhu­man can­not be divine. Who can rea­son on such a propo­si­tion? They that can may, I can­not, the time for such argu­ment has passed.” So Dou­glass is invok­ing the ideals of the Dec­la­ra­tion, say­ing it’s a vio­la­tion of divine law, say­ing it’s a vio­la­tion of our nat­ur­al rights, say­ing that the Con­sti­tu­tion itself was a glo­ri­ous lib­er­ty doc­u­ment, and insist­ing that it be amend­ed to make the promise of the Dec­la­ra­tion real. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amend­ments are adopt­ed between 1866 and 1871. And then some­thing very painful hap­pens. And it’s very impor­tant to acknowl­edge it, and that’s called redemp­tion. Dr. Gates, Hen­ry Lewis Gates, as you said came to the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter. He’s writ­ten some very impor­tant books about this peri­od in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. And it’s just shock­ing is the only word, shock­ing, to real­ize that after we fought a civ­il war, enshrined these amend­ments into the text of the Con­sti­tu­tion, they were rat­i­fied at gun­point in some cas­es, as a con­di­tion for the South­ern states being read­mit­ted to the Union, and final­ly promised equal pro­tec­tion for all, end­ed slav­ery and promised vot­ing rights for African Amer­i­cans. They were evis­cer­at­ed by most­ly polit­i­cal back­lash, the refusal of the exec­u­tive to send troops to enforce recon­struc­tion, the with­draw­al of fed­er­al troops from the South after the Com­pro­mise of 1876, and the acqui­es­cence of the Supreme Court, which in a series of deci­sions in the 1870s, when it struck down the Civ­il Rights Act of 1875, all the way through Plessy ver­sus Fer­gu­son, which so infa­mous­ly upheld sep­a­rate but equal all com­plete­ly incon­sis­tent with the orig­i­nal under­stand­ing of the recon­struc­tion amend­ments. So and then this is of course com­bined with armed ter­ror­ist vio­lence, where African Amer­i­cans are lynched. We talked about mobs and those mobs that the framers feared are now turned on African Amer­i­cans, on the freed­men on abo­li­tion­ists. And just the most poignant dra­mat­ic exam­ple, Fred­er­ick Dou­glass had thought that vot­ing rights would be the king’s cure to inequal­i­ty. Just give the man the right to vote and the promise of the Dec­la­ra­tion will be ful­filled. There was this brief shin­ing moment when there was mean­ing­ful vot­ing in the South, and you have a whole bunch of African Amer­i­can rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Con­gress, but then the promis­es thwart­ed. South­ern states intro­duced lit­er­a­cy tests, poll tax­es, oth­er rus­es to stop black men from vot­ing. Suf­frage plum­mets to neg­li­gi­ble num­bers. The Supreme Court upholds this com­plete attempt to sub­vert the 15th Amend­ment. And it takes almost 100 years til the Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965 for mean­ing­ful vot­ing to begin again. So this is an impor­tant part of our his­to­ry to tell. It’s not all a cheer­ful, uplift­ing sto­ry, but what is strik­ing through­out it all, is there are dis­sents. There are Supreme Court jus­tices rang­ing from, and the dis­senters in the Dred Scott deci­sions, to Jus­tice John Mar­shall Har­lan, who dis­sents from the deci­sion to strike down the Civ­il Rights Act of 1875, and his immor­tal dis­sent in Plessy v. Fer­gu­son, which is so inspir­ing to read where he says The Con­sti­tu­tion is col­or­blind, and nei­ther knows nor tol­er­ates class­es among cit­i­zens. There is no caste here.” So inspir­ing that Thur­good Mar­shall read that aloud before he argued Brown ver­sus Board of Edu­ca­tion to inspire him­self for argu­ing against sep­a­rate but equal. And near­ly 100 years lat­er, the Supreme Court final­ly embraced Har­lan’s argu­ment. So it’s all part of this, it’s strug­gle, it’s activism, and it’s also a con­stant Con­sti­tu­tion­al debate which is fought out on the streets and in the courts, but always slow­ly with fits and starts and advances and set­backs, the arc bends, as King said toward justice.

- Well, just as you said, when we’re gonna talk about the his­to­ry of our coun­try, we have to under­stand the full his­to­ry so we can learn from it. The bril­liance in some ways of what hap­pened with the found­ing, and how all these great ideas were brought togeth­er, and then how they weren’t applied. And why don’t we take the rest of our time that we have here, just tran­si­tion a lit­tle bit more to where we are. So we’ve got this great foun­da­tion. Thank you for lay­ing this great foun­da­tion out of our strug­gles and why the Con­sti­tu­tion mat­ters, and why if we ask the ques­tion who cares about the Con­sti­tu­tion, cer­tain­ly Jef­frey Rosen and the CEO of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter will be able to answer that ques­tion for us and tell us, yes, we should care. And I’m right there with you, my friend. So let’s bring it for­ward a lit­tle bit more. You talked about the fail­ure of the exec­u­tive branch after the 13th, 14th and 15th Amend­ment. You talked about the fail­ure of the Supreme Court, which kind of gets us to our main branch­es. Today I have argued that the rules of those branch­es as orig­i­nal­ly estab­lished are not being ful­filled, that the insti­tu­tions in many ways are fail­ing, and it’s get­ting messy between them, and the deci­sions of the gov­ern­ment are hap­pen­ing fur­ther and fur­ther away from the elect­ed peo­ple who are most account­able to the vot­ers, to the cit­i­zens. By the Con­gress del­e­gat­ing either to the courts, where you see so much pres­sure around the Supreme Court and so much vis­i­bil­i­ty and angst, because, okay, we’re gonna wait for the court decide. So our judges are kind of thrust into maybe if you will a bit of what Con­gress should be doing about mak­ing the laws and bring­ing clar­i­ty or to the exec­u­tive branch, and not just the pres­i­dent or the admin­is­tra­tion, but all of the agen­cies that are mak­ing rules and mak­ing laws and doing things that impact our lives. How should we think about this, the orig­i­nal idea of the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers and the roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties of those three main insti­tu­tions in our gov­ern­ment, and how they may be not apply­ing the orig­i­nal ideas the way that they should or not as true to the roles that they need to play, and help us under­stand that a lit­tle bit, or maybe I’m way off base. But I’d love to kind of have your per­spec­tive on what you see from a Con­sti­tu­tion­al perspective.

- You’re not off base, Doug. You are done doing such an impor­tant job in call­ing atten­tion to the ways that the bal­ance among the branch­es that the framers had in mind has got­ten out­ta whack. Now peo­ple can dis­agree in good faith about what to do about that, but just as a descrip­tive mat­ter, as you say, let’s go back to the fram­ing and ask what was the expec­ta­tion about how the branch­es would inter­act? We know that the founders thought that Con­gress would be the most dan­ger­ous branch. Madi­son feared that it would be an impetu­ous vor­tex, suck­ing all into its maw.” Very vivid lan­guage. We also know that cause it’s the longest arti­cle, and it’s also the first arti­cle, Arti­cle I. It’s not a coin­ci­dence that Con­gress shows up first, cause that’s sup­posed to be all leg­isla­tive pow­er is vest­ed in Con­gress. And they thought that that would be the body that would pri­mar­i­ly debate pol­i­cy and decide how to bal­ance rights and respon­si­bil­i­ties and gov­ern in the name of We the Peo­ple. The pres­i­dent comes next. It’s a pret­ty short arti­cle. He does­n’t have a whole lot of enu­mer­at­ed pow­ers. The Com­man­der in Chief of the armed forces is the most impor­tant, the pow­er to exe­cute the laws that Con­gress pass­es. All exec­u­tive pow­er is vest­ed in the pres­i­dent, that’s called the Vest­ing Clause. And then a cou­ple hand­ful of oth­er pow­ers like receiv­ing ambas­sadors and mak­ing treaties and nom­i­nat­ing impor­tant offi­cials, includ­ing judges, by and with the advice and con­sent of the Sen­ate. The framers real­ly thought that the pres­i­dent would be a kind of chief mag­is­trate who would exe­cute laws that Con­gress passed, but not exer­cise pop­u­lar pow­er. And again, just being total­ly descrip­tive and non­par­ti­san here, we can say the idea of a tweet­ing pres­i­dent of what­ev­er par­ty would’ve been anath­e­ma to the framers. It would be Madis­on’s night­mare, because see they did­n’t want the pres­i­dent to be direct­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the peo­ple. That could lead to dem­a­gogues of the kind that destroyed Greece and Rome, where the peo­ple were mis­led by sil­ver tongue dem­a­gogues who played on their pas­sions rather than their rea­son. All that very dra­mat­i­cal­ly changed around 1912, and it was not a par­ti­san thing. There were two pop­ulist pres­i­dents, Theodore Roo­sevelt for the Repub­li­cans and Woodrow Wil­son for the Democ­rats who insist­ed for the first time that the pres­i­dent should be a kind of stew­ard of the peo­ple direct­ly chan­nel­ing their will and embody­ing their will as the only nation­al­ly elect­ed office. And that com­plete­ly changed the framers con­cep­tion from a chief mag­is­trate, which that old vision was embod­ied in the guy who lost the 1912 elec­tion, William Howard Taft. And instead these two new pop­ulist pres­i­dents had a dif­fer­ent role for the pres­i­den­cy, and the pres­i­den­cy as a result, dra­mat­i­cal­ly expand­ed, which you can just see from the rise of exec­u­tive orders. And it’s real­ly strik­ing that at the time of the fram­ing, Wash­ing­ton issued about 10 exec­u­tive orders. That was the kind of aver­age num­ber per two pres­i­den­tial terms. It spikes up to about 50 dur­ing Lin­col­n’s time dur­ing the Civ­il War, cause of the exi­gen­cies of war time, goes by back down, and then total­ly bal­loons up around Theodore Roo­sevelt. As I said there it’s up to, gosh, I think it’s some­thing like clos­er to 1,000 around then or the high of 300, 400 and so forth. Then it set­tles back down and then under FDR, 3000, amaz­ing. And then nowa­days it’s set­tled into about 300 a term per pres­i­dent, Repub­li­can and Demo­c­rat, no dif­fer­ence. It’s not like one par­ty is much bet­ter at not rul­ing by exec­u­tive order than the oth­er, but basi­cal­ly both par­ties are turn­ing to exec­u­tive orders to do what they can’t do through Con­gress, cause Con­gress is so polar­ized, total­ly get­ting stuff out of whack. And then there’s the role of the courts, which we can talk about sep­a­rate­ly if you want. But I bet­ter take anoth­er breath here and ask, what do you, what do you think about all that Doug, as a kind of descrip­tion about a con­fir­ma­tion of your argu­ment that things real­ly have got­ten out­ta whack?

- Well, I could just keep hear­ing you talk, cause I love how you go through things and artic­u­late it so clear­ly and put it in con­text for us, because I can’t recall what Wash­ing­ton did with his exec­u­tive orders or how it would go up and down in dif­fer­ent times, but the idea that the framers had of the Con­gress being the cen­ter and so pow­er­ful and the oth­er branch­es kind of more sec­ondary almost, maybe in that orig­i­nal con­text, but how we’ve changed that and the impli­ca­tions of that. It’s impor­tant to know, because if we don’t under­stand that that’s some­thing that has been shift­ed, then we can’t stop and go, well, how’s that work­ing for us? Is that make king sense? Are we get­ting away from a king or are we mov­ing towards that? There’s rea­sons that we did­n’t set things up that way. I love, the Con­sti­tu­tion, what’s the quote, the only king we’d ever accept was Elvis Pres­ley. That was the only one we would accept, but yet we move in these cer­tain dif­fer­ent direc­tions. Talk about the courts a lit­tle bit, let’s go there and talk about how can the legal frame­work, the appoint­ments, and then the cas­es tend to be going there when Con­gress could review I would think, help me under­stand that, where Con­gress could review the issues on a vari­ety of issues and just make anoth­er law, and estab­lish law and go from there. But things have just been, it appears stalled in so many respects and just kind of kicked to the courts to decide.

- Kicked to the courts is a great way to put it. Con­gress par­a­lyzed by polar­iza­tion, the Pres­i­dent try­ing to rule by exec­u­tive order, but lim­it­ed in his pow­er, and the courts step­ping into this vac­u­um and decid­ing all these ques­tions on their own. So again, let’s just be descrip­tive here. Hamil­ton in that paper, Fed­er­al­ist 78, which is a great one to read, and those Fed­er­al­ist papers are short and all of your lis­ten­ers can read them. So just check out, Fed­er­al­ist 78. First thing Hamil­ton says is the courts will be the least dan­ger­ous branch, cause they have nei­ther purse nor sword. In oth­er words, they don’t have any mon­ey and they don’t have any mil­i­tary. They can’t force peo­ple to obey their deci­sions. It’s just all has to be their legit­i­ma­cy that peo­ple feel that the rule of law should pre­vail. And that’s why it’s so frag­ile, but it’s also the least dan­ger­ous branch cause Hamil­ton did­n’t think that the courts would strike down all that many laws. He did think the courts had the pow­er to strike down laws. Remem­ber we talked before about Hamil­ton say­ing when there’s a con­flict between the will of the peo­ple rep­re­sent­ed by the Con­sti­tu­tion, and the will of the leg­is­la­tors rep­re­sent­ed by the ordi­nary laws, you pre­fer the prin­ci­pal to the agent, the mas­ter to the ser­vant. So this pow­er called judi­cial review, the pow­er of courts to strike down laws is although not writ­ten down in the Con­sti­tu­tion, assumed by all the framers, but the framers did­n’t think they’d exer­cise it all that much. Here’s an inter­est­ing sta­tis­tic. The first time the court strikes down a fed­er­al law, Mar­bury ver­sus Madi­son 1803. When does it do it again the next time? Dred Scott, 1857, not between, for more than 50 years, there’s no fed­er­al laws struck down. So it’s a pow­er that’s exer­cised very spar­ing­ly. By con­trast between 1995 and 2006 or so if I’m remem­ber­ing this right, the last time I looked, the Supreme Court struck down about 27 fed­er­al laws. So you see that the num­bers are real­ly going up, and that’s just fed­er­al laws. When we talk about strik­ing down state laws, the num­bers are much, much high­er. And you asked as is such an impor­tant theme of this pod­cast, why should lis­ten­ers care about the Con­sti­tu­tion? Well, just think about all the issues the Court is decid­ing. Gun rights, abor­tion, affir­ma­tive action, vot­ing rights, reli­gious lib­er­ty. It’s hard to think of an issue that isn’t in front of the courts, con­firm­ing Alex­is de Toc­queville’s obser­va­tion that in Amer­i­ca almost every polit­i­cal issue increas­ing­ly ends up as a judi­cial issue. He said that in the mid 19th cen­tu­ry, when things were real­ly heat­ing up in issues from the sta­tus of slav­ery, to the income tax are all going before the Supreme Court. So there’s a lot to say about the Supreme Court, and we can talk about all sorts of dif­fer­ent issues about how it should decide cas­es, but just descrip­tive­ly we can say it is decid­ing a whole lot more cas­es and strik­ing down a whole lot more laws than it was intend­ed to do, and the result is that it’s become a polit­i­cal hot pota­to in ways that the framers did­n’t imagine.

- And I think that’s the vital ele­ment here that we under­stand what the framers were think­ing and where we are today to help us under­stand what we may want to think about what we believe about how to help our coun­try be bet­ter in all sorts of ways. Jeff, this has been fas­ci­nat­ing. I know we’re gonna have to con­tin­ue the con­ver­sa­tion. I could keep going for a long time, but we’ll try­ing to bring this ses­sion to a close just with this final kind of top­ic. As I men­tioned, our Board of Trustees comes from all dif­fer­ent back­grounds, dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, dif­fer­ent sec­tors and oth­er things. But boy do we come togeth­er. When we get there, all those things go away. Talk to us a lit­tle bit about the work of the Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter to not only edu­cate, and to not only inform, but to cre­ate an atmos­phere where there’s uni­ty as opposed to divi­sion. We’re expe­ri­enc­ing a ton of divi­sion. And it seems like every time we get togeth­er we’re talk­ing about how it breaks our hearts, not that there should­n’t be dis­agree­ment or rea­soned debate or what­ev­er that may be, but you have a won­der­ful way, and you were in grand rapids a while ago, and I think the top­ic was vot­ing the elec­toral col­lege, and you had a busi­ness group and it’s like who believes that it should be elec­toral col­lege? Who believes the nation­al vote? We had a great debate about it, and at the end, you asked the ques­tion, did any­body change their view? And not many peo­ple changed, and then you ask the ques­tion, do you have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the oth­er side? And that’s when every­body’s hand went up. Every­one said I have a bet­ter under­stand­ing. Well, there was no fights, there were no brawls. Every­one came out with a bet­ter under­stand­ing about some­thing, may not have changed their posi­tion, but how do you see the work of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter and the ideas that we’re talk­ing about here, bring­ing peo­ple togeth­er so we can, find a bet­ter path for­ward and become a more per­fect union.

- Well first, Doug, I have to say that much of the non­par­ti­san spir­it and comi­ty and uni­ty of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter Board is attrib­uted to your lead­er­ship. You share my view that there should be no pol­i­tics what­ev­er intro­duced in the work of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter. Togeth­er we take seri­ous­ly our mis­sion, which comes from Con­gress, which cre­at­ed the Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter as a pri­vate non­prof­it dur­ing the Bicen­ten­ni­al of the Con­sti­tu­tion. I love to recite the mis­sion before all the pod­casts and pro­grams and shows cause it’s so inspir­ing. Here it is, to dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion about the U.S Con­sti­tu­tion on a non­par­ti­san basis in order to increase aware­ness and under­stand­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion among the Amer­i­can peo­ple. So inspir­ing, such a sacred trust. So how do we do it? Well togeth­er we ensure, cause the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter nev­er dis­cuss­es polit­i­cal top­ics. It only dis­cuss­es Con­sti­tu­tion­al top­ics. Now, what does that mean? That’s a hey, well that’s kind of not an intu­itive dis­tinc­tion. Con­sti­tu­tion­al lawyers will rec­og­nize it. Law pro­fes­sors use it, but we’re try­ing to get cit­i­zens to embrace it too. What’s the dif­fer­ence between a polit­i­cal and a Con­sti­tu­tion­al dis­cus­sion? A polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion would be should we have gun con­trol? That’s a very hot­ly con­test­ed ques­tion. Peo­ple real­ly dis­agree about that. We get into all sorts of sta­tis­tics and prac­ti­cal ques­tions about whether it works and all sorts of stuff like that. Con­sti­tu­tion­al ques­tion is dif­fer­ent. Not is gun con­trol a good or bad idea, but does the Con­sti­tu­tion allow it or for­bid it? What’s so inter­est­ing about shift­ing the lens from a polit­i­cal to a Con­sti­tu­tion­al lens is first of all, it forces you to slow down. Hey I don’t real­ly know much about whether the Con­sti­tu­tion­al allows or for­bids gun con­trol. I’m gonna have to start with the text, read the text of the Sec­ond Amend­ment. Then I’m gonna have to learn some his­to­ry. What do the framers have in mind when they pass those words? then I’m gonna have to read some Supreme Court cas­es. What does the Court say? Then I not only read the major­i­ty opin­ions, but also the con­cur­ring opin­ions and the dis­sents. And this is such an impor­tant part of what we’re try­ing to mod­el Doug. It’s that the Con­sti­tu­tion is made for peo­ple of fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ing points of view as Oliv­er Wen­dell Holmes so mem­o­rably said. There are gen­er­al­ly good argu­ments on both sides of any Con­sti­tu­tion­al ques­tion. Not only both sides, but all sides. There are all sorts of dif­fer­ent views. So you real­ly have to read those majori­ties and the con­cur­rences and the dis­sents, and under­stand not just the bot­tom line results, but also the Con­sti­tu­tion­al rea­son­ing before you can make up your own mind. And if you’ve tak­en the time to do all this, and you can’t just do it in a one tweet or in a brief Insta­gram post, you got­ta dig in. It does­n’t take all day, but you need at least say 15 min­utes to have a intro­duc­tion to the top­ic. Hey, you’ve already learned an awful lot. More impor­tant­ly, you’ve learned how much more you’ve got­ta learn. You’ve got­ta dig in deep­er and real­ly inform your­self before you can have a set­tled point of view. And just that process of only dis­cussing Con­sti­tu­tion­al, not polit­i­cal views, bring­ing togeth­er peo­ple of dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives so folks can hear sides, and ask­ing peo­ple to open their minds to argu­ments on the oth­er side is the core of what we’re doing. And Doug it’s so mean­ing­ful to do. We do it with our Con­sti­tu­tion 101 class­es for kids online, which are reach­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of kids. And I want your lis­ten­ers to check em out and try to learn from them. We do it on our amaz­ing inter­ac­tive Con­sti­tu­tion, the most mean­ing­ful learn­ing plat­form I’ve ever been involved with in my life. I know all my col­leagues feel the same way where we’ve brought togeth­er the top thinkers in Amer­i­ca, lib­er­al and con­ser­v­a­tive, to explore areas of agree­ment and dis­agree­ment about every clause of the Con­sti­tu­tion. And again lis­ten­ers, just go check that out at con​sti​tu​tion​cen​ter​.org, Pick a clause of the Con­sti­tu­tion you’re inter­est­ed in learn­ing about and dig in deep, lis­ten to the pod­cast, lis­ten, read the class­es, the schol­ar­ship, it’s just a world of learn­ing. And then we do it on our pub­lic pro­grams and pod­casts too. So it’s a priv­i­lege to do all of this learn­ing. And it’s also to use a old phrase that the framers used a lot. It’s a duty. They talked about not only rights, but duties, and the duty to cul­ti­vate our fac­ul­ties of rea­son was one of the pri­ma­ry duties that came from God or nature. That’s also the core of the Dec­la­ra­tion. John Locke and Fran­cis Hutchi­son and Aris­to­tle, and all those philoso­phers the founders relied on thought that the need to exer­cise our pow­ers of rea­son to make up our own minds is not only a right but a duty. So that’s why this edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion is so pro­found, so sacred, but it’s also, it’s a duty that’s real­ly mean­ing­ful and excit­ing and even fun to per­form because learn­ing and grow­ing is the great­est thing that you can do. It’s the high­est exer­cise of your fac­ul­ties of rea­son. It’s such a priv­i­lege to have the free­dom to do it as cit­i­zens. It just blows my mind, Doug, that with the pow­er of the inter­net and pod­casts and all this great tech­nol­o­gy, the amount of mate­r­i­al that we can put online and orga­nize for peo­ple to find on their own so they can engage in life­long learn­ing is so deep. The framers are kind of debat­ing each oth­er, how can I get the lat­est edi­tion of some book by some philoso­pher? They got­ta send it over from Paris, and Thomas Jef­fer­son says to Adams, Good news, I have an edi­tion and I just sent it to you.” With us it’s just the click of a but­ton. All it takes is the self-dis­ci­pline to dig in, to set aside some time for that deep learn­ing, to try to not do the brows­ing and the quick reac­tion, the tweet­ing, but instead the learn­ing and the grow­ing. It’s all there, all we need to do is cul­ti­vate the habits of learn­ing and the excite­ment, and that’s what we’re doing at the Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter. And Doug, it is such a priv­i­lege to do it along with you and our great colleagues.

- Well Jeff, thank you for that. And thank you for what you’re lead­ing and you’re right. The team at the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter is just fab­u­lous. All the part­ner­ships you devel­oped around the coun­try, the abil­i­ty to have many of these dis­cus­sions and to talk about the Con­sti­tu­tion so we can answer that ques­tion, right? We can answer that ques­tion that says, who cares about the Con­sti­tu­tion? We all do. And the resources that you hit about the Inter­ac­tive Con­sti­tu­tion on con​sti​tu​tion​cen​ter​.org. That’s where you go there for 15 min­utes, you’ll be there for an hour. You’ll start div­ing in, the curios­i­ty will be just be tapped, and there’s so much con­tent there and it’s easy to read. So Jeff Rosen, my friend, CEO of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for being here, and I look for­ward to hav­ing you back because there’s so much more to explore on this top­ic, and it’s so vital for us, as you said, make up our own minds. Dare I would say, what do we believe, right? I’ll give a shame­less plug on our pod­cast too, but your pod­cast with We the Peo­ple,” again, a great source of learn­ing and insight. So thank you for join­ing. Thank you for all that you do, and wish you all the best. Look for­ward to talk­ing to you soon. Thanks, Jeff.

- Thank you, Doug. Look for­ward to our next con­ver­sa­tion. Thanks so much.

- All the best. Well, that’s it for this episode of Believe!” Thank you for join­ing us, and fas­ci­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tion with Jeff Rosen, CEO of the Nation­al Con­sti­tu­tion Cen­ter. Just a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty to dive a lit­tle deep­er, and we look for­ward to more con­ver­sa­tions like that, there’s so much that we can learn about how to make our­selves a bet­ter coun­try, how to be bet­ter cit­i­zens, and how we imple­ment those things in our com­mu­ni­ties to improve the lives of all those around us, but fas­ci­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tion. Thanks for join­ing us. We’ll look for­ward to see­ing you soon.