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Sept. 18: A discussion of who the heck "We the People" are anyhow?

A Constitution Cafe discussion of "Who are "We the People" Anyway? Personhood, Citizenship and The U.S. Constitution," part of My Daily Constitution

When: Monday September 18, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Where: The Auditorium of the Old Centrum: 1201 North Central Ave. Indianapolis, Indiana 46202

Traditionally we Americans have regarded ourselves as a “nation of immigrants”, and our national identity has not been based on any one specific ethnicity or religion. Instead, the concept of “American” has been grounded in an increasingly inclusive, “civic” identity consistent with the ideal of pluralism. This ideal was not realized even when immigration was largely from European countries; discrimination against Italian, Irish, and Jewish Americans was commonplace. African Americans were excluded from full citizenship for generations. As America becomes demographically more Latino and Asian, and with Islam as the country's fastest growing religion, do we have the will to advocate inclusiveness and pluralism as our national ideal?

Leading this discussion will be local favorites Pierre Atlas (Marian) & Charlie Wiles (Peace & Learning Center). Pierre is an assistant professor of political science and director of the Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College. He writes a bi-weekly opinion column for the Indianapolis Star and a monthly online column for RealClearPolitics.com. Pierre obtained his Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University in 2000, and also holds Master's and Bachelor's degrees in political science from the University of Arizona and the University of Toronto, respectively. His specialization is Middle East politics and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and he also teaches courses in American politics and U.S. foreign policy.

Charlie Wiles, a true "warrior for peace," holds a degree in Political Science from Indiana University. He spent several years working for the Indiana State Legislature, started a general contracting business renovating older homes, and served as a combat medic in the US Army Reserves from 1991-1999. In 1997 he was founding director of Peace Learning Center, a not-for-profit organization focused on teaching youth nonviolent methods to resolve conflict. Currently he coordinates interfaith/intercultural programs and lives with his wife, Sachiko, and two daughters, Lena and Aya, on the north side of Indianapolis.

For more information ...

Want to learn more about the topic? A good place to start would be the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ own overview of their history. Nancy Salvato provides another useful historic overview of changing legal notions of citizenship: “Current Issues of Immigration in America.”

A brief overview of some of the changing ideas of citizenship in American history read Rogers Smith’s “The Meaning of American Citizenship.” Smith gives the topic a much more detailed treatment in Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in US History. Peter Spiro identifies “The Citizenship Dilemma” at the heart of Smith’s efforts to draw a vision for civic nationalism in America in the 21st century. Noah Pickus offers a thoughtful discussion of these issues in True Faith and Allegiance: Immigration and American Civic Nationalism. Diana Owen, in “Citizenship Identity and Civic Education in America,” explains what this means for education … and not only K-12 education.

Some of the books Charlie Wiles recommends: Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, by Linda Monk (or see her video presentation) ; "The Impossibility of Religious Freedom" by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan (read the introduction); and "The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need it Now More than Ever" by Cass Sunstein (or read Sunstein's summary).

Charlie also suggests several websites: Exploring Constitutional Conflicts at www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/home.html; Centuries of Citizenship at www.constitutioncenter.org/timeline/html/cw13_12363.html; and a glimpse at how others view "We The People" from the Pew Global Attitudes Project at http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?PageID=802

Good suggestions from Charlie, check them out.

About the venue: Built as the Central Avenue United Methodist Church in 1892, the facility and its stewards have played a significant role in the social and cultural history of Indianapolis. During the peak of the Social Gospel era in the early 20th Century, the church and its membership battled for child labor laws, developed health care programs for the poor and helped form three enduring institutions: Methodist Hospital, Wheeler Rescue Mission and Goodwill Industries. The church also served as parent to St. Luke's United Methodist Church and played a key role in the development of what is now known as the Old Northside Neighborhood.

If you like this event ...

My Daily Constitution has Constitution Cafes devoted to a couple of groups that are stretching the traditional boundaries of civic inclusion: non-citizens and gay people. Another discussion will focus on the problems African Americans and other groups have had with that most basic of civic rights and responsibilities, voting.

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