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Hamilton and 'Hamilton' bring Constitution into focus

A little more than a year ago, in what quickly became the most memorable moment of the 2016 National Democratic Convention, speaker Khizr Kahn brandished a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution and offered to lend it to then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The simple but compelling gesture led to a sharp rise in the book’s online sales and searches, with many stores selling out of all their copies.

“At one point, last year, the Constitution was a top seller on Amazon,” says Brad Vogus, associate librarian for ASU Library.

For the 11th consecutive year, Vogus will be distributing those same $1 pocket Constitutions popularized by Kahn, in celebration of Constitution Day at ASU, slated for Monday, Sept. 18.

An annual national event, Constitution Day was established in 1956 as a way to commemorate our country’s most influential document and help foster habits of citizenship.

“The Constitution is our most important law document. It defines the fundamental law of our government,” says Vogus. “This event gives our students and the public an opportunity to learn more about it.”

Also, it’s the law, says Vogus.

In 2005, programs aimed at promoting a greater understanding of the Constitution became required of federally-funded schools and government offices.

This year’s program at ASU will shine a light on the hit musical “Hamilton” and the rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed in the show.

“Since the musical ‘Hamilton’ will be at Gammage this season, we think there will be great enthusiasm for this talk,” says Vogus.

The talk – Hamilton and ‘Hamilton’ – will be led by Peter McNamara, a professor of practice in ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and an expert on the political and economic thought of Hamilton.

Paying close attention to each man’s political views, McNamara will examine how the Hamilton-Jefferson rivalry ultimately helped shape the U.S. Constitution.

The event, to take place from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., in room C55 at Hayden Library, is free and open to the public. Resources and more information about Constitution Day are also available via the ASU Library guide.

Pocket copies of the Constitution will be given away before the event – but only while supplies last, warns Vogus.