How did the United States Constitution become the supreme law of the land? Who wrote it? What issues did they face? Why is the Constitution important to us today? The Constitution is under attack at the same time few Americans can answer simple questions about what it says and what it means. Becoming America: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 addresses these important issues in a unique blend of interviews with nationally acclaimed scholars and experts and lively, upbeat songs from the new musical “Convention: The Birth of America.”
Designed for “we the people” of all ages, Becoming America will take you on a tour of America in 1787 and in-person encounters with Presidents George Washington and James Madison. Sponsored by the Center for Civics Education at Concordia University Irvine, each of seventeen episodes is co-hosted by Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham, Judge James P. Gray (retired) and the Honorable Bijan Kian.
An underlying theme is the notion that “The United States of America is the perfect idea. The United States of America is a work in progress.” How do we, as Americans, continue to build on the original principles of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and equality under the law? Only a basic understanding of those principles, their origin and purpose, and commitment to their fulfillment can we assure their endurance and applicability to all Americans and those who live here.
Becoming America promises to inform, inspire and entertain you through an historic journey unique in the history of the world and foundational to how our government was established and has endured for more than two hundred thirty years. The Constitution is ours. It belongs to us, “we the people.”
You Are The We - David Ferriero
Preservation of our founding documents and records of debates and other commentaries on the purposes and intentions of the Founders are essential to both our past and present application of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They are more than memories of the past, they continue to be the foundation upon which our government and liberties rest. In this final episode of Becoming America, David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, discusses the role of the National Archives in safeguarding the original US Constitution and other founding documents. He explains how the Archives work alongside other government agencies, how ordinary citizens can gain access to historical documents, and how the Archives instill civic literacy in young people. Finally, the hosts cap off the show by sharing their reverence and respect for the Constitution, what inspired Judge Gray to write a musical about the Constitutional Convention, and what being an American means to them.
Our Sun Is Rising – A Group Of Americans
“America is perfect idea; the United States is a work in progress.” This has been a constant theme during our “Becoming America” series. In today's society, more diverse than ever, how do the ideas that motivated our Founders stand up? Does the Constitution still resonate with the people? This episode features everyday Americans sharing their thoughts about the Constitution, which section means the most to them, and what it means to be an American. Tune in as they provide brief individual glimpses of their views of our country's ideas of liberty, opportunity, security and individual freedom.
We, The People - Andrew Guilford
The Preamble of the Constitution contains its most revolutionary statement, beginning with the remarkable statement that the new government would be based on the authority of “We the People.” In this episode of “Becoming America,” Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham, Judge Jim Gray, and Bijan Kian interview Judge Andrew Guilford. Retired after serving for nearly 14 years as a United States Federal District Court Judge, Judge Guilford is one of only two district judges in his region to have been invited to sit on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals - the Ninth Circuit. In this episode, he addresses the purpose and history of the Preamble and whether it has legal authority. He also addresses a critical modification of the Preamble approved during the Constitutional Convention and the meaning of the concept of American exceptionalism. Finally, just who are "the people" in the Preamble and how do we transmit our constitutional values to the next generation? Judge Guilford answers these questions, so don't miss out and join us in this great conversation!
Someone Has Got To Decide – Dr. Gordon Lloyd
Fortunately, there are thousands of documents recording the drafting and ratification of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Letters, journals, newspaper articles, political pamphlets and much more provide a comprehensive account – including from both sides - those who favored and those who disapproved of the Constitution. Our guest in this episode has been shaping the conversation about our American history through his work with the Ashbrook Center. Dr. Gordon Lloyd is the Robert and Katheryn Dockson Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University and the creator of four highly regarded websites on the origin of the Constitution. He joins Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham, Judge Jim Gray, and Bijan Kian to share with us his work and wisdom surrounding the birth of our Constitution. Dr. Gordon Lloyd shares with us the compromises made during the Convention, the new relationship between the states and a new national government, and the power of the people. Tune in to this conversation to get a deeper understanding of what William Gradstone, the great English Prime Minister, described as the greatest documents ever written by the hand of man.
It’s Lonesome At The Top - George Washington
It can be lonesome at the top, especially when you lead not only a country but a country at the cusp of transformation. At the creation of the United States, there was one indispensable man. He commanded the Continental Army through the Revolutionary War, presided over the Constitutional Convention, and was elected to be our first President. We all know him. His name George Washington. Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham, Judge Jim Gray, and Bijan Kian have prepared a unique interview for us, diving deep into the insights and experience of the country's first Commander-in-Chief! Why did General Washington believe the Articles of Confederation were deficient? Why was he hesitant to attend the Constitutional Convention? What about his relationships with James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson? Why did he believe a Bill of Rights was not needed? Rather than speculate, we will take a trip back in time and ask General Washington himself to answer these and other questions. This is one conversation you will not want to miss!
The Studied Silence – Maj. Gen. James Williams
Why did our Founding Fathers ignore the issue of slavery when crafting the Constitution? To understand this better, we need to put everything in context with the times. The incipient federation was at risk of many Southern states not joining if slavery was outlawed, and many of the delegates themselves were slave owners. But to their credit, they did make the institution much less brutal. To help us gain a better understanding of this prominent and often controversial sticking point of American history, Judge Jim Gray, Professor Jo Ellen Chatham, and “The American”, Bijan Kian are joined by Major General James Williams of the US Marine Corps. Join in and learn why the word “slavery” wasn’t included in the Constitution and how that decision embodied our nation builders’ principles of personal liberty.