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KNOXVILLE – Constitution Week is Sept. 17-23, but the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is getting an early start with a lecture tonight.

UT Knoxville alumnus Oliver Thomas — attorney, author, educator, minister, community leader and executive director of the Niswonger Foundation — will speak on “From Jihad to General Motors: Can the U.S. Constitution Weather the 21st Century?” at 7 p.m. today in the Toyota Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The Niswonger Foundation of Greeneville, Tenn., was established in 2001 by businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger. The organization’s mission is to help East Tennessee by creating “opportunities for individual and community growth through education and other charitable activities.”

Constitution Week activities continue on Wednesday, Sept. 16, when the campus community will be invited to sign an oversized replica of the Constitution starting at 11 a.m. on the Pedestrian Walkway. Pocket-size copies of the Constitution will be available.

Then, on Thursday, Sept. 17, the Baker Center will host a discussion for faculty, students and the public on “What’s Fair on the Air?” The discussion will be on the Fairness Doctrine and the Broadcaster Freedom Act. The event begins at 4 p.m. in Hodges Library, first-floor galleria.

Also on Thursday, Sept. 17, beginning at 9 a.m., the Baker Center will show a series of documentaries on the U.S. Constitution in the Toyota Auditorium. The film series is free and open to the public.

Five short documentaries will be shown — a series of three beginning at 9 a.m. and the final two starting at 11:30 a.m. Here is the schedule:

9 a.m. — “Part I: Conversation on the Constitution with Supreme Court Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy.” The justices talk with high school students about freedom of speech, specifically in schools. (30 minutes)

“Part II: The Justices Speak on the History and Responsibilities of Juries.” This film features a discussion between Justices Breyer, O’Connor and Kennedy. (11 minutes)

“Part III: FAQ: Juries.” In 11 short video segments, constitutional experts, lawyers and judges discuss the importance of jury service, including the history of English and American juries. (40 minutes)

11:30 am — “Part IV: Yick Wo and the Equal Protection Clause.” This short film gives the history of the 1886 Supreme Court case that dealt with discrimination against Chinese-Americans. (20 minutes)

“Part V: Korematsu and Civil Liberties.” This film profiles the controversial 1944 case dealing with internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. (27 minutes)

For more information, contact the Baker Center at 865-974-0931 or visit

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,