The celebration of the document’s adoption on Sept. 17, 1787, featured presentations of excerpts from the Constitution and an address by Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon. Before and after the event, organizers distributed pocket-sized Constitutions to interested Elis. The Yale College Dean’s Office, sponsor of the event, raffled off copies of two books by Yale faculty members: “America’s Constitution: A Biography,” by law professor Akhil Amar, and “Affairs of Honor,” by history professor Joanne Freeman.
The event largely let the words of the Constitution speak for themselves, but in his speech, Gordon reflected on the document’s significance in contemporary America.
“The Constitution stands as a guarantor of our freedom and a model to other nations,” he said.
The annual celebration of the Constitution is mandated by a 2004 law that is binding for all schools receiving federal funding. Although some faculty and students at the University originally opposed the forced celebration when it first hit campus in 2005 , this year’s small event drew no protestors.
Amar said the law is true to the Constitution itself.
“It doesn’t require that we praise the document; it just requires that we teach about it, and this is faithful to the Constitution’s deepest ideals,” he said.
Amar, who teaches a perennially popular constitutional-law course, selected the portions of the Constitution read that were read aloud.
Indeed, one attendee said she wishes the University had introduced the event sooner.
“I kind of wish they had it while I was here,” law fellow Arabella Yip ’02 said.
The celebration offered a chance to reflect on the importance of a document that we often take for granted, Woodbridge Fellow Adam Scharfman ’08 said. Scharfman, along with other Woodbridge Fellows, is spending a year working in the Office of Federal Relations.
“It’s a great opportunity to refresh everyone’s memory and to hear the words of the Constitution, because many don’t have a chance to go back and read it after high school,” Scharfman, an organizer of the event, said.
The event kicked off with an introduction by Gordon and continued with 13 different people reading various sections of the document, from the preamble to the last amendment. The group of readers included undergraduates, graduate students and faculty, and the readers themselves also had a symbolic purpose in the ceremony, Woodbridge Fellow Clairelise Rodriguez ’08 said.
“The readers are a diverse group with regards to affiliation and age, and this reflects how the Constitution affects us all,” Rodriguez, another event organizer, said.
The amendments read in the ceremony also reminded attendees of their constitutionally guaranteed rights as U.S. citizens, one reader said.
“It is a document that embodies the things that you can do,” said Casey Gerald ’09, who read the preamble of the Constitution. “From the very beginning, it promoted freedom and liberty.”
The event ended with a rendition of “America the Beautiful” by Lauren Libaw ’09, who also concluded last year’s celebration with the same song.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all that is wonderful about being American,” she said.