October 5, 2012
Civility: Constitutionally Speaking

New Hampshire Humanities Council had more than 1,200 people reserve seats for retired Supreme Court Justice, David Souter first public conversation with PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Margaret Warner, in Concord. Constitutionally Speaking is a pilot project aimed at engaging New Hampshire citizens in spirited, yet civil, dialogue about the Nation’s founding document. 

View video of the discussion here.

Here’s a description of their project:

The “civic culture” of New Hampshire and the nation at large is in peril. It is evident in the lack of respect that increasingly characterizes public policy discussions in our town halls, our state legislatures and the corridors of Congress, not to mention the inflammatory rhetoric spewed daily in print and electronic media.  It is reflected in the research that cites an appalling lack of understanding among voting age Americans about the structure of our government and the meaning of citizenship.  It is exacerbated by the abandonment some 40 years ago of meaningful civics instruction in our public schools.  It demands the immediate attention of all who seek to preserve the foundations upon which our democracy was built.

To that end, the NH Humanities Council, the NH Supreme Court Society, the UNH School of Law, and the newly formed NH Institute for Civic Education have joined forces to launch Constitutionally Speaking. This project aims to educate and engage New Hampshire’s adult citizens as well as future generations – today’s students – in civil, yet spirited, dialogue about the Constitution and how it affects our lives.  New Hampshire is uniquely suited to the task, both by the state’s relatively small population and by its tradition of citizen participation in all levels of civic life.

The project was launched by last Friday’s conversation and continues on November 17 with a Symposium at which 150 selected teachers and civic leaders will convene with some of the nation’s top Constitutional scholars and writers to further explore contemporary constitutional issues and to begin to develop K-12 curricula and public conversations that will roll-out in the Spring of 2013.  The pilot year will end on Law Day, May 17, 2013 with a public conversation with Ted Olson and David Boies, who argued opposing sides of Bush vs Gore before the United States Supreme Court in 2001 and who more recently joined forces to argue California’s gay marriage case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In September, October and November, Indiana Humanities is exploring the topic of “civility,” as part of its Spirit of Competition theme.

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