Is the Constitution Judeo-Christian?

It is commonplace, particularly in discussions about religious liberty, to describe the Constitution as “Judeo-Christian” in its origins — but is this historically accurate? Professors Menachem Lorberbaum of Penn’s Katz Center and Tel Aviv University, Michael Moreland of Villanova’s Charles Widger School of Law, and Suzanne Last Stone of the Cardozo School of Law discuss the development and context of the Constitution to explore its relationship to the Jewish and Christian traditions. Michael Gerhardt, National Constitution Center scholar-in-residence, moderates.

This program is presented in partnership with the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where Lorberbaum is the Ellie and Herbert D. Katz Distinguished Fellow, and Stone and Gerhardt are affiliated scholars, for the 2016-2017 academic year, exploring Jewish political thought.

Registration: Registration is recommended for all programs. Call 215-409-6700, or reserve your seats here.

Seating: Seating begins one hour prior to program start time. Programs begin promptly, and latecomers may not be admitted.

Confirmation: Please note programs are subject to change; call the National Constitution Center at 215.409.6600, or check our website for updated information.

Parking: Parking will be available for $9 at the National Constitution Center parking garage, located at the rear of the building on Race Street between 5th and 6th streets, on a first-come, first-served basis. Pick up your discounted parking voucher at registration.

Rep. John Lewis Receives Liberty Medal

Jeff Rosen, Lynne Honickman and Rep. John Lewis

Jeff Rosen, Lynne Honickman and Rep. John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis has joined the ranks of such luminaries as Nelson Mandela, Sandra Day O’Connor and Shimon Peres. Like them, the longtime Georgia congressman is now a recipient of the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. As described on the Center’s website, “the Liberty Medal is awarded annually to men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.”

Mayor Jim Kenney, former Councilwoman  Marian Tasco, former Mayor Wilson Goode, Sharmain Matlock-Turner, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle and State Rep. Dwight Evans

Mayor Jim Kenney, former Councilwoman Marian Tasco, former Mayor Wilson Goode, Sharmain Matlock-Turner, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle and State Rep. Dwight Evans

Lewis has demonstrated such “courage and conviction” throughout his life as a champion of civil rights. A product of the segregated South, Lewis joined the Civil Rights Movement at a young age, and throughout his career, maintained his courage in the face of many challenges, such as arrests and police brutality. He took part in the Freedom Rides to oppose bus segregation, and as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he organized sit-ins and other protests. Along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis was a member of the Big Six, the group that organized the March on Washington, and he was the youngest speaker at that historic event.

Harold and Lynne Honickman and Marguerite and Jerry Lenfest

Harold and Lynne Honickman and Marguerite and Jerry Lenfest

Later, Lewis focused much of his attention on voting rights. He was one of the leaders of the Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing, during which peaceful advocates for voting rights were viciously attacked by Alabama state troopers. He also led voter registration drives and directed the Voter Education Project.

Lewis began his own political career as a member of the Atlanta City Council, and since 1986, he has represented Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For 13 years, he worked to promote the federal legislation that created the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall in Washington.

Ira Lubert, Colleen Wyse and Dr. Steve Klasko

Ira Lubert, Colleen Wyse and Dr. Steve Klasko

Phladelphia Mayor Jim Kenney calls Lewis “an inspiration to people all over the world.” Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, describes Lewis as having “helped to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all Americans.”

Among the attendees at the Liberty Medal Ceremony were elected officials as well as other civic and philanthropic leaders. The Liberty Medal itself was sponsored by Ira Lubert, trustee of the National Constitution Center and co-founder of the firm Lubert-Adler.

Photos by Bonnie Squires.
Channel 6 ABC will air the Liberty Medal Ceremony on Sunday, October 2, at 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday, October 23, at 1:30 p.m.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates Awarded Liberty Medal


Liberty Medal award-winner Secretary Robert Gates and David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center

Presenting the Liberty Medal to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates were SFC Dana Graham of the Liberty USO, Anthony Odierno, representing the Wounded Warrior Project, and David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center.

After a lifetme of public service, in the CIA, and ending with serving as Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert Gates was awarded the Liberty Medal on September 22 at the National Constitution Center.  The word “liberty” took on added meaning as David Eisner, the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, had invited Iraq war veteran Anthony Odierno, representing the Wounded Warrior Project, and SFC Dana Graham of the Pennsyvalnia Army National Guard, representing the USO of Pennslvania and Southern New Jersey (Liberty USO), to present the actual Liberty Medal to Dr. Gates.

More after the jump.


Jim Gardner, of Channel 6 ABC, hosted the television broadcast of the Liberty Medal ceremony.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was one of the dignitaries who appeared by video to congratulate Secretary Gates and sing his praises.

With Governor Tom Corbett and Mrs. Lisa Nutter joining other diginitaries on stage, the program included video tributes from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mayor Michael Nutter.  Gates is unique in having served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, which made his remarks of concern for the condition of public discourse in the country and in the nation’s capital today even more pertinent.

The VIP audience included a representation of the area’s Jewish community, some of which are pictured here.

(photos by Bonnie Squires)


Harold and Lynn Honickman

Joan Specter awaits Senator Arlen Specter, who was teaching a class before attending the Liberty Medal event.

Eugene and Roz Chaikin

A new twist on this year’s Liberty Medal ceremony was the introduction of the official timepiece by Hublot, presented to Secretary Gates at the gala which followed  the award ceremony.

Steve and Sandy Sheller

National Constitution Center, Ken Burns and PBS Partner to Support “Civility and Democracy”

Joint Initiative Launch Tied to National Constitution Center’s

“Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America”

Saturday, March 26 – Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bonnie Squires

David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center (NCC), today joined filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Patricia Harrison to announce collaboration to foster a national conversation about “Civility and Democracy.”  

More after the jump.

The National Constitution Center hosted a kick-off press conference, featuring filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, prior to their weekend of national speakers and panelists, dedicated to “A conversation about Civility and Democracy in America.”
Seen here in the Annenberg Center are (left to right) David Eisner, CEO of the National Constitution Center; Ken Burns; Patricia Harrison, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; Tom Phelps, of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Ken Burns, whose new documentary, “Prohibition,” was highlighted over the weekend;  and Lynn Novick, Burns’ partner in filmmaking.

As part of the project, NCC and PBS station WETA Washington, DC will work together to develop educational materials and Web content connected to Burns’s and Novick’s upcoming film, PROHIBITION, which is scheduled to air this coming fall on PBS.  The film takes viewers beyond the oft-told tales of gangsters, flappers and speakeasies to experience the rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Burns and Novick will work with WETA, PBS and the National Constitution Center to create station and public engagement tools around the theme of “Civility and Democracy,” and lead conversations about the issue in a multi-city tour that will take place this spring, summer and fall.

The announcement was made on the eve of “Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America” at the National Constitution Center on March 26th and 27th.  The conference is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Bridging Cultures program.

Highlights from PROHIBITION will be incorporated into some of the Center’s workshops throughout the weekend.  Participants – along with the general public – will be provided an early look at the film the night of Friday, March 25th at the Center.

“The idea for ‘Can We Talk?’ is to engage in a national conversation about the role of civility in our democracy,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner.  “There can be no better partner to make this conversation meaningful and broad-based than one of America’s greatest storytellers, Ken Burns.”

“With each Ken Burns film, PBS works with local stations, such as WHYY in Philadelphia, one of our leading stations for civic engagement, and other partners to create a national conversation about issues as diverse as our parks, the experience of war, and America’s love of baseball,” said Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS.  “PROHIBITION is a remarkable film that will engage viewers around the country and just as importantly serve as a starting point for conversations in schools and at the dinner table.  This partnership will help us provide even more tools to stations and community groups as Ken and Lynn travel the country over the months ahead.”

“There is no topic more important to the ongoing health of our republic than civility and democracy,” Ken Burns said.  “No period in American history is void of conflict.  There is no idyllic moment in American life.  But civility is essential to our ability as a nation to confront together difficult issues, even when we may disagree, and to continue to improve as a country.”

Patricia Harrison, the President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has partnered with WETA on station engagement and community outreach, said, “Ken’s films connect us, no matter what our background, heritage or station in life, to our country’s past in a way that provides us with an understanding of the present and the issues shaping our lives today.  Public media is committed to providing, through our content and engagement with community, a safe place where people can debate and disagree in a way that affirms, not diminishes, our civil society.  Through PROHIBITION, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick offer an opportunity to follow the law of unintended consequences through the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  As a result, PROHBITION provides public media stations throughout the country an opportunity to engage with students, parents and partners, such as the National Constitution Center, as we take a thoughtful look at this important time in our country’s history.”

“In many ways, Prohibition is an example of an era when strongly held views by one group led to consequences that no one could have foreseen at the time,” said Lynn Novick.  “Ken and I are very excited about the opportunity to the work with the National Constitution Center, PBS stations and others across the nation to embark on a conversation that we hope results in greater civility and ultimately a stronger democracy.”

“Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America”

An interactive, interdisciplinary forum, “Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America” will bring together the best and brightest from such fields as history, government, communications, and political philosophy.  This renowned group will guide public discussion of the role of dissent and protest throughout American history, and the degree to which dissent can and should be civil.  At the close of the event, participants will present guidance on the tools, systems, and best practices that may contribute to productive social and political movements in the future of our nation.

The forum will feature three main parts specifically designed to foster active public engagement with the topic: an opening keynote address, a set of small group discussions and a large town hall-style exchange that will be taped for broadcast at a later date.  Portions of the conference also will be webcast live at www.constitutioncenter.org.  The Center’s new blog, Constitution Daily, will feature live blogging of the events and ongoing coverage about civility and its connections to the Constitution at http://blog.constitutioncenter…

Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Educational and Web Materials

As part of the partnership, NCC and PBS member station WETA Washington, DC will work together to incorporate themes from “Can We Talk?” into educational and web materials to support the broadcast.  The web site for PROHIBITION will be accessible via pbs.org, one of the most successful .orgs in the world, and will reach millions of people of all ages.  In addition to educational materials, the site will include selections from scripts, outtakes and transcripts from interviews, archival footage and photographs, music, a bibliography, and timelines.

WETA and PBS also will launch a social media campaign designed to engage audiences online in conversations and discussions around the themes in the film.  Video clips from the broadcast also will be posted on the PBS YouTube Channel.  Fans can follow Ken Burns on Twitter @kenburnspbs or on Facebook at facebook.com/kenburnspbs.

Community Engagement

For each Ken Burns film there is a comprehensive national engagement campaign designed to work in conjunction with the broad promotional plans in order to help create a larger discussion around important topics addressed in the film.  For PROHIBITION, WETA will offer grants to stations to help them explore civility and democracy-related themes and issues in their local markets.  Station activities will include screenings and panel discussions, local productions, customized classroom materials, social networking, and online modules and multi-media projects.

It is expected that events will take place in up to 15 markets (including New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore, Louisville, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Columbus, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington, among others).

When in market, Burns, Novick and others will screen highlights of PROHIBITION and lead discussions about the film and “Civility and Democracy,” as well as visit local schools to discuss these topics with children.