This September, the Institute of American Civics at the Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs is presenting programs highlighting Constitution Day, including a lecture by Harvard professor and Washington Post columnist Danielle Allen and a performance of “Cato,” a play by Joseph Addison that was performed at Valley Forge under George Washington’s order.
Constitution Day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787.
On Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 5:30 p.m., democracy expert Danielle Allen will give a public lecture, “The Declaration of Independence Today: Why an Old Text Still Serves Us Now,” in the Baker School’s Toyota Auditorium. A member of the IAC’s Board of Fellows, Allen is a key voice in national conversations on civic education and democracy renovation. In her public lecture she will grapple with the Constitution’s key contradictions, liberating some citizens while subjugating others, while observing its role in establishing equality, one of American democracy’s key tenets.
There will be multiple opportunities to see Joseph Addison’s play “Cato,” first performed in 1713. Set in North Africa, it tells the story of the Roman senator who stood against Julius Caesar as he dismantled the Roman Republic. The play confronts the question of how democratic societies defend themselves against tyranny and who carries on the spirit of democracy. It is the source of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” and Nathan Hale’s “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” The production promises to be thought provoking and engaging, with civil conversation-style talkbacks led by UT faculty, actors and other experts after each performance.
“‘Cato’ is such a historically significant play and almost never performed in public,” said IAC Executive Director Josh Dunn. “This is an excellent opportunity to see something rarely shown and to participate in the performance and the postperformance talkback.”
Produced by Professor and Department of English Head Misty Anderson and directed by Charles Pasternak, “Cato” is presented in collaboration with the Institute of American Civics and the scholarly resources of the R/18 Collective along with the departments of English, Classics, History, and Theatre and the Center for Global Engagement.
About the Institute of American Civics
Created by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2022 with overwhelming bipartisan support, the Institute of American Civics provides a comprehensive civic education for university undergraduates and the state that includes America’s founding principles, the economic and political institutions that maintain American democracy, and the basics of civic engagement. The institute is housed within the Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs and is advised by a 13-member board of fellows.
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