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Constitutionally Speaking in New Hampshire

September 17, 2012 | By Federal/State Partnership Staff

The pilot year for Constitutionally Speaking was launched in New Hampshire on Friday, September 14, 2012 and seems headed for a resounding success. The civic engagement initiative that began with a filled-to-capacity discussion between Justice David Souter and PBS's Margaret Warner will close out its pilot year with a public conversation between renowned constitutional litigators Ted Olson and David Boies in May 2013.  

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter took to the stage at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire for the opening event of Constitutionally Speaking, a new project to engage New Hampshire citizens in spirited, yet civil, dialogue about our nation’s founding document. The evening program featured a conversation between Justice Souter and Margaret Warner, an Emmy award winning senior correspondent with PBS’s nightly NewsHour. The event proved to be extremely popular with all 1200 seats reserved well in advance. A video of the event is available.

On November 17, 2012, the project continues with a symposium that will bring together selected teachers and civic leaders with some of the nation’s top Constitutional scholars and writers. The group will explore contemporary constitutional issues, elaborating on themes explored in the opening conversation with Justice Souter, and will also prepare community leaders, parents, and public school teachers to lead topic-related discussions in communities and classrooms across the state. In February 2013, the New Hampshire Humanities Council will begin organizing public diaglogues that target specific audiences in geographically distinct areas around the state, and will also help facilitate the development of K-12 curricula by public school teachers who participated in the fall symposium.

The pilot year of Constitutionally Speaking concludes on Law Day, May 17, 2013, with a public conversation between Ted Olson and David Boies, constitutional litigators 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.

Constitutionally Speaking is a collaboration between the New Hampshire Humanities Council, the New Hampshire Supreme Court Society, the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and the newly established New Hampshire Institute for Civic Education. Justice Souter has been instrumental in the creation of the Institute, which will provide professional development opportunities to New Hampshire teachers so that civics education becomes a reality for all public school students beginning in kindergarten and continuing through graduation from high school. Constitutionally Speaking aims to educate and engage New Hampshire’s adult citizens as well as future generations – today’s students – in civil dialogue about the Constitution and its effect on daily 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.


Constitutionally Speaking is made possible in part by generous support from the Hoffman Family Foundation and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.