Constitutional Chats Presented By Constituting America
Cathy Gillespie, and Constituting America’s Student Ambassadors – Tova Love Kaplan, Jule Gilbert and Jorne Gilbert – chat with Constitutional experts on hot-topic issues via Zoom!
info_outline Ep. 191 - The Eighth Amendment 12/01/2023
Ep. 191 - The Eighth Amendment Once again, the Founders showed their preference for brevity with the 8th Amendment. It is actually the shortest of all the amendments but packs a wallop in just 16 words! In this week’s chat, we are discussing the elements of the 8th Amendment: protections against excessive bails and fines and protections against cruel and unusual punishments. We answer what is a cruel and unusual punishment, who decides the standard by which punishment is deemed legal or illegal, how does this relate to “death-eligible” crimes in the application of the death penalty and what is the evolving standard of decency that’s used as litmus test? For this insightful conversation, we are pleased to welcome Paul McNulty, former US Attorney, Former Deputy US Attorney General and current president of Grove City College to share his knowledge and insight with our all-star student panel.
info_outline Ep. 190 - The Seventh Amendment 11/17/2023
Ep. 190 - The Seventh Amendment As we discussed last week, the Sixth Amendment guarantees a trial by jury in a criminal trial, among other guarantees. The Seventh Amendment guarantees a trial by jury in federal civil cases for disputes over $20. Why were the Founders so adamant about jury trials as opposed to a single judge? What is the difference between a civil or common law trial and a criminal trial? What are the exceptions to a trial by jury? And how does this apply and function in conjunction with state law? Alongside our student panel, we are delighted to welcome Eric J. Wise, partner at Alston & Bird, to help us understand the historical context, need and purpose of the Seventh Amendment.
info_outline Ep. 189 - The Sixth Amendment 11/09/2023
Ep. 189 - The Sixth Amendment A criminal trial has the potential to permanently alter the rest of one’s life. Punishments can range from fines to imprisonment to execution. This gives the government tremendous ability to impose penalties on its citizens. The Founders understood this and laid out criteria under which criminal trials would proceed. Under the Sixth Amendment, trials are speedy and fair, juries are impartial and Congress cannot take any of these rights away from the accused. We are delighted to have joining our all-star student panel Paul J. Larkin, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation as he helps us understand the focus, meaning and purpose of the Sixth Amendment.
info_outline Ep. 188 - The Fifth Amendment 11/03/2023
Ep. 188 - The Fifth Amendment The Fifth Amendment really packs a punch. Think about the Constitution like this: the body of the Constitution created the new government and the Bill of Rights immediately put constraints on that government’s power. The Founders had a natural skepticism and nervousness about governmental power especially when it comes to the prosecuting of criminal activity. The Fifth Amendment lists 5 significant restraints on government: indictments by a grand jury, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, guarantees of due process and protects private property through the Takings Clause. Joining our all-star student panel, we are delighted to have returning fan-favorite guest Andrew Langer, President of the Institute for Liberty, to help us unpack this crucial amendment.
info_outline Ep. 187 - The Fourth Amendment 10/26/2023
Ep. 187 - The Fourth Amendment The Fourth Amendment provides two specific protections: protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and requirements for when a warrant can be issued. At only 54 words, the amendment continues the Founders’ penchant for brevity and leaves room for interpretation through the courts. How do we define what is unreasonable and probable and how has this standard changed over time? At one point the United States Supreme Court said a search had to involve a physical trespass onto your property. Obviously that standard has changed due to wiretaps and electronic communication. To help us unpack the ever-changing circumstances around how we define searches, seizures and warrants, we are pleased to have Steven G. Bradbury joining our student panel. Mr Bradbury is a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and has served in multiple Presidential administrations in various legal roles and will provide us with a keen insight into the Fourth Amendment.
info_outline Ep. 186 - The Third Amendment: Is It Relevant Today? 10/19/2023
Ep. 186 - The Third Amendment: Is It Relevant Today? At first glance, in a contemporary view, the Third Amendment may seem like a relic from the founding era of our country. Today, it would seem strange for the military to require homeowners to house and feed soldiers. We think it just would not happen. Perhaps the certainty around it not happening today should be attributed to the Third Amendment’s success: being so unambiguous and precise when it was written. Join our all-star student panel and returning guest Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, for this insightful discussion on this oft-overlooked yet critical amendment and the important founding principles it reflects, including the right to property.
info_outline Ep. 185: The Second Amendment: Can a Governor Issue an Executive Order to Restrict Gun Rights? 10/12/2023
Ep. 185: The Second Amendment: Can a Governor Issue an Executive Order to Restrict Gun Rights? Last month the governor of New Mexico issued a temporary public health order restricting the carrying of firearms in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. The bipartisan pushback against this order was swift and she later amended the order to only apply at parks and playgrounds. From where, if anywhere at all, did the governor derive such a power? Does this conflict with the second amendment and laws that allow for carrying of firearms? This is the topic we are discussing today. Joining our all-star student panel, we are honored to have John R. Lott, Jr., President of the Crime Prevention Center, as our special guest for this important discussion.
info_outline Ep. 184 - The First Amendment & Government Intrusion in Social Media 10/06/2023
Ep. 184 - The First Amendment & Government Intrusion in Social Media Free speech in the First Amendment protects us from government censorship but not private censorship. This means the government cannot censor your speech but a private entity such as a newspaper does not have an obligation to publish your speech. Continuing this analogy, are social media companies more like a newspaper where they can pick and choose which speech to publish or more like a telephone company where they allow all speech regardless of content to use their infrastructure? What happens when the government wants to stifle otherwise free speech, but doesn’t have the grounds to do so? We’ve seen a troubling trend of the government pressuring social companies to censor speech. Joining our all-star student panel to discuss this trend, we are excited to welcome Brad Smith, Professor of Law at Capital University, former FCC Chairman and founder and Chairman of the Institute for Free Speech for this informative discussion.
info_outline Ep. 183 - Justice In The Supreme Court 09/29/2023
Ep. 183 - Justice In The Supreme Court Court with lifetime appointments. They decide the most pressing issues of federal law. Did you know the Court regularly receives over 7,000 annual petitions for a case to be heard, but only accepts 60-70 cases per year? Did you know the 9 justices get to decide which cases they hear? Did you know the justices employ a few dozen law clerks to help them work through their caseload? Our guest today has the incredible accomplishment of clerking for not just one Supreme Court Justice but two, and a third justice before he was elevated to the Supreme Court. Whitney Hermandorfer works as Director for Strategic Litigation in the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office and we are excited to welcome her alongside our all-star student panel for this incredible conversatio
info_outline Ep. 182 Justice Inherent in Our Inalienable Rights 09/22/2023
Ep. 182 Justice Inherent in Our Inalienable Rights “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Regular followers of Constituting America understand the importance of this passage from the Declaration of Independence and our natural rights: rights given to us by God that can never be taken away. But take this a step further and you see how these inalienable rights begin to create our system of justice. Without natural rights, rights become merely a privilege and can be taken away…justly or unjustly. We are delighted to have Dr. Jason Stevens, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ashland University, joining our all-star student panel as we dig deeper into our natural rights to find our foundation of justice.
info_outline Ep. 181 – Justice in our Checks and Balances 09/15/2023
Ep. 181 – Justice in our Checks and Balances Our federal government is divided into three branches and each branch has certain powers over the others. We identify this as separation of powers and checks and balances. What if all three powers were held in one set of hands? That government would be the definition of tyranny. Our founders knew government is both necessary and very dangerous so they created this system so today we can ensure equal protection of equal rights for all citizens. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Thomas Krannawitter, President of Speak Easy Ideas, and our all-star student panel for this discussion of checks and balances.
info_outline Ep. 180 – Lady Justice — Why the Blindfold? 09/07/2023
Ep. 180 – Lady Justice — Why the Blindfold? The United States Supreme Court has various depictions of Lady Justice in and around the building. These depictions portray her with three items: a blindfold, scales and a sword. The blindfold and scales suggest the use of reason and logic in judicial judgement. The sword suggests the strength to carry out that judgement. Have you wondered how the concept of an independent judiciary furthers the separation of powers because one branch of government cannot be the judge in its own case? To elaborate further on these fascinating themes, we are delighted to have Richard Reinsch, Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies and AWC Family Foundation Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, join our all-star student panel for this insightful discussion.
info_outline Ep. 179 – The Conscience of America – the Declaration of Independence! 09/01/2023
Ep. 179 – The Conscience of America – the Declaration of Independence! Regular followers of Constituting America understand our appreciation for the Declaration of Independence as one of the most groundbreaking documents ever written. Did you know this document was crafted as a logical argument listing both major and minor premises against the Crown making the case for colonial independence? It also illustrates three levels of justice: natural law, legal justice and what can best be described as justice related to conscience. Joining our all-star student panel, we are excited to have William Morrisey, former Professor at Hillsdale College returning as our special guest as we discuss this historic document as America’s conscience.
info_outline Ep. 178 - America's Principle of Civic Duty 08/25/2023
Ep. 178 - America's Principle of Civic Duty John Adams wrote, “Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul.” To understand the need for civic duty, one must fully grasp civic virtue and to fully grasp civic virtue, one must have a civic education. Understanding the hows and whys of our governmental system is vital in knowing how we can best participate and contribute to that structure. We are excited to have Charles “Cully” Stimson, USN, Retired, returning as our special guest with our all-star student panel for this exciting and “virtuous” discussion.
info_outline Ep. 177 - America's Principle of Meritocracy 08/18/2023
Ep. 177 - America's Principle of Meritocracy Not very long ago, the circumstances to which you were born largely dictated the path your life took. If you were born into the aristocracy, you likely died the same way. If you were born into poverty, you likely died the same way. The United States ushered in a new era of thinking: meritocracy. It is this notion that a people should rise and fall based on their achievements and not the circumstances of their birth or membership in a social class. We take this for granted today, but this was a novel idea in the late 18th century. So what are the merits of a meritocracy? How does it foster innovation and hamper cronyism? To help us grasp this concept, we are delighted to welcome back our all-star student panel and Andrew Langer, President of Institute for Liberty, for this “meritorious” discussion.
info_outline Ep. 176 - America's Principle of National Sovereignty 08/11/2023
Ep. 176 - America's Principle of National Sovereignty American sovereignty is such a fundamental ideal in the American experiment that it’s mentioned in both the opening and closing of the Declaration of Independence. Succinctly, sovereignty is the power to do something and shapes our ability as a people through our elected representatives to make decisions that are best for us. Why were the Founders so concerned with sovereignty? Why was it so necessary not just to win it but maintain it? We are pleased to have our student panel joined by returning guest Christopher C. Burkett, Director of the Ashbrook Scholar Program and Associate Professor of Political Science at Ashland University, to shed light on this vital concept.
info_outline Ep. 175 - America's Principle of Constitutional Restraint 08/03/2023
Ep. 175 - America's Principle of Constitutional Restraint The Declaration of Independence so eloquently laid out “charges” against the Crown - detailing why independence was necessary. The test of the Constitution is whether or not it serves the goals and aims of the Declaration of Independence. In the Constitution, the Founders had to strike the proper balance of liberty and order as our new nation was leaving an oppressive government behind while at the same time providing stability for its citizens. In order to accomplish this lofty objective, our Founders needed to empower government but at the same time restrain it. Nearly 250 years into the American experiment, we are still working to create our “more perfect union.” Join our guest Constitutional expert Professor Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic & Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, and our all-star student panel as we explore how we empower and restrain our government through checks and balances, separation of powers and federalism.
info_outline Ep. 174 - America's Principle of Knowing Classical History 07/28/2023
Ep. 174 - America's Principle of Knowing Classical History What can history teach us? Well…everything! Our Founding generation understood history and studied it when creating the framework for our country. From ancient city-states to the fall of empires, our Founders looked at what did and did not work in past governments. One can argue our current government, this great experiment in self-governing is an amalgamation of previous forms, choosing the best traits but leaving out the worst. Joining our all-star panel, we are pleased to have returning Joe Loconte, Senior Fellow at the Institute on Religion and Democracy and Senior Fellow at King’s College in New York, for this insightful and “historic” discussion.
info_outline Ep. 173 - America's Principle of Providence 07/24/2023
Ep. 173 - America's Principle of Providence Americans love a good origin story. This love carries into the origin story of our country. Today, we are discussing the role of Providence and faith in the origin story of the United States. What role did religion have on our founders and how is that root belief carried on today? To help us unpack this topic, we are delighted to welcome Nathanael Blake, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and our all-star student panel for this “origin story” discussion.
info_outline Ep. 172 - America's Principle of Self Governing 07/14/2023
Ep. 172 - America's Principle of Self Governing What is popular government? What do we mean when we say we are self-governing? In his 1863 Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln summarized it rather clearly: “…that government of the people, by the people, for the people…”. According to our guest, in those few word Lincoln answered who creates our government, who administers our government and for what purpose. Join our guest expert, Adam Carrington with Hillsdale College, and our all-star student panel for this informative discussion on popular government.
info_outline Ep. 171 - First Principles of the American Founding: The Declaration of Independence and Natural Law 06/29/2023
Ep. 171 - First Principles of the American Founding: The Declaration of Independence and Natural Law In drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson put a specific emphasis on natural law and weaved that theme throughout the entire document. While the Declaration of Independence did not create the new United States government. it severed ties with our previous government so a new one could be formed, and set out important principles upon which our new government would be based. What exactly is natural law, of which Jefferson so eloquently wrote? How do we “know” these “self-evident” truths? From what further historical inspiration did Jefferson derive the Declaration Independence? To help us unravel the philosophical foundation of this groundbreaking document, we are pleased to have Tony Williams, author and Senior Teaching Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute, returning to join our student panel as we begin a new series on the timeless principles of the American founding.
info_outline Ep. 170 The Communist Dictatorship of Cuba 06/28/2023
Ep. 170 The Communist Dictatorship of Cuba It’s only about 100 miles from the southern tip of Florida, yet couldn’t be more different than its American neighbor. Cuba is yet another example of a revolution that promised change but then turned on its people to usher in a communist dictatorship. While Cuba has a constitution that enshrines rights, those rights are seldom recognized by the government. Article 56 of their constitution guarantees a right to assemble, demonstrate and associate but government dissidents are often jailed, tortured or disappear. Join our guest expert John Barsa, executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba and the former acting administrator for USAID, and our all-star student panel for further insight into our neighboring country.
info_outline Ep. 169 The Communist Party of China vs. Our U.S. Constitution 06/16/2023
Ep. 169 The Communist Party of China vs. Our U.S. Constitution Oppressive states and regimes run by a dictator have something in common; an iron grip on every aspect of their citizens’ lives. Basic freedoms-like speech, assembly, religion-don’t exist in these countries. As westerners, we read about these oppressions. But every now and then, we are able to hear a first-hand account of what happens inside these secretive governments. We are honored that today is one such day. Our guest is Chen Guangcheng. An activist and lawyer, Chen was beaten, jailed and placed under house arrest by the Chinese government. In April 2012, Chen escaped house arrest and was given refuge in the US embassy in Beijing. In May 2012, Chen and his family were granted US visas and they came to the United States. We are beyond excited to have Chen as our special guest, joining our all-star student panel, for this insightful and first-hand account into life inside the People’s Republic of China.
info_outline Ep. 168 The Authoritarian Regime of Venezuela vs. Our U.S. Constitution 06/08/2023
Ep. 168 The Authoritarian Regime of Venezuela vs. Our U.S. Constitution It was once the richest country in South America with the largest proven fossil-fuel reserves in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. In just 24 years, this country now sees over half its population living in poverty. In today’s chat, we are of course talking about Venezuela. Venezuela, which became socialist through a democratic election in 1999 when Hugo Chavez came to power, serves as a cautionary tale. For a deeper dive into what went wrong in Venezuela, we are pleased to have Daniel DivMartino as our returning guest along with our all-star student panel. Daniel is a native Venezuelan and graduate fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Join us for this fascinating discussion!
info_outline Ep. 167 The Dictatorship of Russia vs. Our U.S. Constitution 06/02/2023
Ep. 167 The Dictatorship of Russia vs. Our U.S. Constitution It’s only existed for 31 years. It covers roughly 1/8 of all inhabitable landmass on earth with a population of 143 million. It has a constitution and a parliament but for 23 years, it has been ruled by one individual. Today, we are discussing the dictatorship of the Russian Federation and its ruler, Vladimir Putin. How did Putin come to power and consolidate his iron grip over his country following the dissolving of the Soviet Union in the 1990s? What strides towards democratization was the Soviet Union making? What is the status of basic civil liberties like freedom of speech, freedom to dissent and freedom to protest? For all of these answer and many more, join our all-star student panel and our special guest, Mark Kramer, Director of the Cold War Studies Project at the Davis Center at Harvard University, as we unpack the Russian Federation.
info_outline p. 166 The Dictatorship of North Korea vs. Our U.S. Constitution 05/25/2023
p. 166 The Dictatorship of North Korea vs. Our U.S. Constitution Look at a map of the Korean Peninsula at night. In the southern half of the peninsula, you will see pockets of bright lights denoting South Korea’s cities and population centers. In the northern part, you will see an expanse of a dark expanse with the occasional tiny light. That’s not an ocean or other body of water. That’s North Korea, an absolute dictatorship and one of, if not the most, isolated countries on Earth. How did this happen? Does North Korea have a Constitution? What is the relationship between the people and their government? What role does “juche” play in the lives of North Koreans? To help us understand this country, we are pleased to welcome Suzanne Scholte. Suzanne is a noted human rights activist, president of the Defense Forum Foundation is the vice co-chair of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Thank you for joining Suzanne and our student panel for this eye-opening discussion on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
info_outline Ep. 165 The Absolute Monarchy of Saudi Arabia Vs. Our U.S. Constitution 05/18/2023
Ep. 165 The Absolute Monarchy of Saudi Arabia Vs. Our U.S. Constitution In our previous chat, we discussed how Iran’s form of government is a republic in nature, similar to our own republic, but is decidedly authoritarian in substance. In today’s chat, we are discussing Saudi Arabia, a country that lacks those same institutions in favor of an absolute monarch. Leading a country of roughly 38 million, the Saudi king is the head of the ruling family that dates back over 300 years to the First Saudi State. What do you know about how this country was formed and how it is ruled? What type of legislative body does Saudi Arabia have and how are its legislators chosen? What role does Wahhabism play in every aspect of the Saudi government? How is this country looking towards the future through its Vision 2030 effort? To help us unpack these questions, we are delighted to have Ilan Berman, Senior Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC, join our all-star student panel for this exciting discussion.
info_outline Ep. 164 Iran’s Authoritarian Regime Vs. Our U.S. Constitution 05/11/2023
Ep. 164 Iran’s Authoritarian Regime Vs. Our U.S. Constitution This country has a constitution which establishes an executive, legislature and judiciary. They have rights guaranteed under the law. No, we are not talking about the United States. Today we are discussing Iran. Although their Constitution May resemble ours, in practice, their government operates very very differently. Join us as we discover how and why and discuss just who the Ayatollah is, what is “Guardianship of Islamist Jurist and much more! Joining our panel is our guest speaker Dr. James S. Robbins, Academic Dean of the Institute for World Politics, writer for USA Today and Senior Fellow on the American Foreign Policy Council, for this insightful discussion on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
info_outline Ep. 163 Artificial Intelligence & The Constitution 05/04/2023
Ep. 163 Artificial Intelligence & The Constitution When you hear the term “Artificial Intelligence,” what comes to mind? Seemingly overnight, AI has become a topic of daily conversation with the rise of Chat GPT in 2022. But what exactly is AI? How can it be used? What are the Constitutional issues raised with AI? What are the potential effects on our civil rights and civil liberties? These are the questions we tackle in this week’s Constitutional Chat. Joining our all-star student panel, we are excited to welcome privacy and cyber-security expert Dan Caprio, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of the Providence Group to hep us unravel all things AI.
info_outline Ep. 161 The State Department: Diplomatic Protection 04/21/2023
Ep. 161 The State Department: Diplomatic Protection The Department of Foreign Affairs started off as the first Department of the executive branch with 6 employees led by Thomas Jefferson in 1789. Now it’s called The United States State Department and employs 75,000 and maintains diplomatic relations with around 180 countries. But what do you know about this historic agency and the work it does around the world? What is its role in International diplomacy, national security and advancing US interests overseas? Why is it a good idea to register with the State Department when traveling overseas? And what is an Ambassador and how can you become one? To answer all of these questions and many more, we are delighted to have Former U. S. Ambassador to Estonia and President of the Institute of World Politics, Aldona Woś, joining our all-star student panel for this informative and insightful chat.