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Constitution Week

Center for Civics Education

Constitution Week

Those who expect to be both ignorant and free, expect what never was and never will be.

- Thomas Jefferson

Why Constitution Week?

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The Preamble to the United States Constitution states that “We the people of the United States…do ordain and establish this Constitution.” That means US…you and me, along with more than 332,000,000 other Americans. The Constitution entrusts the ultimate power of government to the people through the electoral process and a structure of government based on popular sovereignty, republicanism, limited government, federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances and individual liberty.

In four pages containing only 4,400 words, the Constitution is the oldest written constitution as well as the shortest written constitution in the world. It has been amended only twenty-seven times since being ratified in 1788 and has influenced the constitutions of more than 150 other nations.

Article VI of the Constitution declares the “the Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.”

Sadly, a majority of Americans are woefully ignorant of the Constitution, yet it is the “supreme law of the land” and “we the people” are sovereign. How can a viable government by the people, of the people, and for the people be sustained if the people are ignorant of how that government works?

Using questions from the simple civics test required of all immigrants seeking United States citizenship, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation surveyed nearly 50,000 Americans in all fifty states. In only one state, Vermont, was a majority of those surveyed able to pass that test. Eighty percent of seniors at our most elite institutions of higher education cannot pass a basic high school history test.

On September 17, 1787, a convention of fifty-five delegates representing twelve of the original thirteen states adjourned after drafting a new Constitution for the United States. It became “the supreme law of the land” upon ratification by New Hampshire on June 21, 1788. September 17 is now celebrated as Constitution Day. The week in which September 17 occurs is known as Constitution Week.

While understanding our Constitution, the government it created and the rights and responsibilities of citizens should be a continuing effort, Constitution Week provides a perfect opportunity to focus our local and national attention on these important topics and refresh our knowledge about and commitment to government by "we the people."

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Constitution Week at Concordia

Each year the Center for Civics Education at Concordia University Irvine commemorates Constitution Week by collaborating with the ASCUI, the Veterans’ Resource Center, the Department of History and Political Thought and other campus organizations. Our goals are to inform, inspire and involve students, faculty and staff regarding the “supreme law of the land” and our rights and responsibilities as citizens – we the people.

The Center recently co-sponsored with the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum a series of eighteen lectures on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and remaining amendments. Featuring professors from Concordia University Irvine and California State University, you can watch the lectures here.

To learn more about the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the men who drafted the Constitution and the times in which they lived, you can watch here for a series of lively conversations with experts, scholars and authors as well as music from “Convention: The Birth of America.”

Events: 2023 Constitution Week at Concordia University Irvine

For a preliminary preview of Constitution Week at Concordia University Irvine, see below and watch for details to be added during the summer.

Sunday, September 17
5:00 – 7:00 pm | Constitution on the Green
Lively patriotic music, food and fun for the Concordia University Irvine family
Outdoors by the CU Center
More details to come!

Monday, September 18
7:00 – 8:00 pm | Convocation Speaker
Details to come!

Tuesday, September 19
12:00 – 1:30 pm | Interview with George Washington
During his second visit to Concordia University Irvine, General George Washington will discuss his role as President of the Constitutional Convention, his views about other delegates, why he believed we needed a constitution, and much more!
Location TBD

Wednesday, September 20
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. | Debate
Professor Bryan Santin and former President of Concordia New York John Nunes will debate “Is the Constitution Worth Saving?” Each debater will take both sides of the debate in this probing and thought-provoking exchange
Location TBD

Friday, September 22
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. | Pizza and Constitutional Trivia Night
Enjoy pizza and pie as you test your knowledge about the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and additional sixteen amendments, the Founding Fathers, and how the Constitution was created
Prizes for the winners!

Tuesday - Wednesday
Engage with the Constitution at the Constitution Week kiosk in front of the cafeteria for quizzes, games, online signing of the Constitution, puzzles, free pocket-sized Constitutions and more. Does your political philosophy align with Alexander Hamilton? Thomas Jefferson? John Adams? Benjamin Franklin? James Madison? Come to the kiosk and find out…and take the Constitution Quiz.

Sunday - Saturday
Visit the Concordia University Irvine library for a display and link to resources about the creation and ratification of the Constitution, the men who drafted it, how it is interpreted and how it has changed over time.

Watch this site for updates and additional events and activities.

Concordia University Irvine Constitutional Essay Contest

Center for Civics Education | Departments of English | History and Political Thought

We are pleased to announce the second Essay Contest on the United States Constitution for the purpose of engaging CUI students with the United States Constitution, its underlying principles and purposes as well as its role as “the supreme law of the land.” The author of the first-place essay will receive $1000 and publication of the essay or excerpts on various websites and publications. The author of the second-place essay will receive $500.

Essay Contest Question

Contestants may choose one of three questions. See below. Choose only one question.

Contest Rules

  • DEADLINE: All essays must be received by 11:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Friday, September 8, 2023. Essays must be submitted to [email protected].
  • ELIGIBILITY: All currently enrolled CUI undergraduate students are eligible to participate. Submissions must include the author’s:
    • Name
    • Address
    • Email Address
    • Phone Number
    • Class (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
    • Major

Essay Requirements

  • By submitting an essay, you are declaring that it is an original work. Primary and secondary sources may be included if properly attributed, but the essay must be your own original work.
  • By submitting an essay, you are giving your consent to have the essay and/or excerpts published either online or in hard copy publications.
  • Each essay must be double-spaced, between 1000 – 1250 words (4 – 5 pages) and submitted in Times New Roman, 12-pont font.
  • All essays must be submitted in English.

Essay Adjudication

  • Upon receipt, each essay will be assigned a number. Judges will not know the identity of authors until final judging has been completed.
  • Contest judges will include Concordia University Irvine faculty representing the Departments English and History and Political Thought and at least one public member with expertise in subjects relevant to the essay questions.


The prize for the best essay is $1000 U.S. The prize for the second-best essay is $500 U.S. The entire essay and/or excerpts of the winning essay will be published online and/or in hard copy publications.

Essay Questions

Submit questions to Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham at [email protected].

Concordia University Irvine Essay Contest on the Constitution: Choose ONE of three essay questions.

  • Amending the Constitution. Since the Constitution of the United States was put into operation on March 4, 1789, nearly 12,000 amendments have been proposed in Congress. Only thirty-three were sent to the States for ratification. Of those, twenty-seven have been ratified and become part of the Constitution. The first Congress proposed and sent to the states for ratification twelve amendments, ten of which were ratified and became known as the Bill of Rights. One of the two remaining original proposals was ratified in 1992 and is listed as the Twenty-seventh Amendment. If you could propose an amendment to the Constitution, what would it be and why would you propose it? What other parts of the Constitution, if any, would be affected by your amendment? What impact would your proposed amendment have on the power of government and/or the rights of the people?
  • The First Amendment and Free Speech. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws abridging the freedom of speech. The Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to apply First Amendment prohibitions to the states as well. However, freedom of speech is not unlimited. Speech that actively incites violence or creates imminent danger is not protected. In recent years, there have been calls prohibit “hate” speech. Such speech is not defined in United States law, but a United Nations memorandum has defined hate speech as “any kind of communication in speech, writing or behavior, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender or other identity factor.” Should laws against hate speech be supported? If so, how should hate speech be defined and who should decide? If not, why not and what are the ramifications of banning hate speech? In your essay, consider the overall value of free speech and implications of limiting any form of speech.
  • Executive Authority. The President and some members of Congress advocate forgiving all or a portion of student loans. The estimated cost could be approximately $400 billion. The debate centers on many differences of opinion regarding 1) transfer of wealth from taxpayers to people who borrowed money to go to college; 2) whether the President has the power to make such a decision; and 3) the overall economic and social benefits of student loan forgiveness. The issue has been argued before the United States Supreme Court; its decision is expected in June or July. Do you support or oppose student loan forgiveness? In your answer, address the three issues listed above. If you write your essay after the Supreme Court’s decision is published, you might want to read the decision and consider arguments presented by the majority of judges and those presented by the minority (assuming that the decision will not be unanimous).

Constitution Week Resources

To create your own Constitution Day for your family, friends, clubs or other groups, you can find creative ideas and resources here:

National Today - Constitution Day

Constitution Day

Constitution Day Survey

National Archives - Constitution Day

PBS - Constitution Day, Civic Empowerment, and Active Citizenship Lesson Plan

Daughters of the American Revolution - Constitution Week

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