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It’s Constitution Day!

September 17, 2015

Are you looking for something to watch for Constitution Day? The Library can help with our selection of streaming videos from Film on Demand.

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) provides the 2013 four-part series Constitution U.S.A., hosted by Peter Sagal.

In the first episode, Sagal explores the Constitution’s most striking and innovative feature: its resilient brand of federalism. “The framers created a strong national government while preserving much of the power and independence of the states. This delicate balance of power, seemingly hard-wired for disagreement and conflict, has served America well for more than two centuries. But it has also led to tensions throughout American history and still sparks controversy today over medical marijuana, gun control and ‘Obamacare.’”

Ask Americans what the Constitution’s most important feature is and most will say it’s the guarantees of liberty enshrined in the Bill of Rights. In It’s a Free Country, Sagal explores the history of the Bill of Rights and addresses several stories - ripped from the headlines - involving freedom of speech, freedom of religion and right to privacy.

It took three-quarters of a century, and a bloody civil war, before the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868 made equality a constitutional right and gave the federal government the power to enforce it. The far-reaching changes created by that amendment established new notions of citizenship, equal protection, due process and personal liberty. Today, those notions are being used to fight for same-sex marriage, voting rights, affirmative action and immigration reform. In Created Equal, Sagal learns how the far-reaching changes altered the relationship between the federal government and the states, and meets individuals who have challenged equality laws and affirmative action policies.

In the last episode of the series, Sagal travels to Iceland, where after the country’s economic collapse, leaders decided to create a new constitution, looking to the U.S. Constitution for inspiration. This prompts Sagal to consider why our own founding document has lasted more than 225 years. He looks at the systems that have kept the Constitution healthy and also at the political forces that threaten to undermine the framers’ vision: excessive partisanship leading to gridlock, money in politics and gerrymandering. 

To find more streaming videos on the Constitution, go to RamCat, do a keyword search of “constitution”, and limit the search to Streaming Videos. On Monday, September 14, there were 189 titles retrieved using this search.