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American Bar Association
ABA Division for Public Education

What is the program about?

Our Constitution offers a framework for addressing challenges in the nation's political life. Conversations on the Constitution is a program of the ABA Division for Public Education to encourage civil discussion and debate about the meaning of some of the Constitution's concepts and clauses that have been the subject of ongoing constitutional debates.

Who can participate in the program?

We encourage Americans from all walks of life to participate openly in constructive conversations that advance civil discussion. The conversation starters and focus questions are appropriate for middle and high school students and adults.

Educational institutions receiving federal funds will hold educational programs about the Constitution on September 17-Constitution Day. The authorizing legislation, sponsored by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), also requires federal agencies to hold Constitution programs on Constitution Day. The ABA Division for Public Education offers Conversations on the Constitution in service to the nation for its Constitution commemoration and education efforts.

Note: The views expressed here have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association, nor do they represent the official position or policies of the ABA Standing Committee on Public Education.

What are Conversation starters?

Conversation starters are short, easily read text or images that are meant to be thought-provoking. They have been selected to illuminate issues, raise or explore areas of conflict, highlight ideas associated with each Conversation topic, and to foster conversation and ongoing dialogue. Accompanying each starter is a set of focus questions designed to open discussion about the topic and related issues. We have also identified resources specific to each starter designed to provide further information or context. The starters require no preparation or study by participants in advance of the discussion, although the suggested resources might be useful for such purposes.

NEW! The Right to Bear Arms
  Starter 1: State Constitutions: Massachusetts and Wisconsin
  Starter 2: Gun Rights and America's Culture Wars
  Starter 3: A Well-Regulated Militia Needs Handguns

The Preamble
  Starter 1: The Preamble, U.S. Constitution
  Starter 2: We the People
  Starter 3: "We...do."

Cruel and Unusual Punishment
  Starter 1: DNA Proof
  Starter 2: Trop v. Dulles
  Starter 3: Roper v. Simmons

War Powers
  Starter 1: Checkout
  Starter 2: Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer
  Starter 3: The Federalist No. 4, John Jay

Separation of Powers
  Starter 1: The Federalist No. 48, James Madison
  Starter 2: Hamdi et al. v. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, et al.
  Starter 3: Letter from President Eisenhower to Senator John Stennis (D-MS), October 7, 1957

The Advice and Consent of the Senate
  Starter 1: The Framers and Advice and Consent
  Starter 2: Advice and Consent Viewed from the Bench
  Starter 3: Advice and Consent in a Democracy

An Establishment of Religion
  Starter 1: Letter from Thomas Jefferson
  Starter 2: Dissent in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris
  Starter 3: Wall Between Church and State

Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
  Starter 1: Important Notice for U.S. Citizens
  Starter 2: Illinois v. Caballes
  Starter 3: "Give Me Your Metal Detectors."

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