To celebrate the 200th birthday of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, which was the writing of the framework of American democracy, filmmaker Lou Reda produced 26 one-minute, star-spoken episodes called 'The Constitution Minutes' in 1987. 

"The way we produced them, it doesn't make any difference if you watch them or listen to them. The message is there," Lou told 'The Morning Call'. "There isn't a politician among them (the presenters). I did that on purpose. One lawyer, one historian, the rest all actors as the conduits to getting out the message of what the Constitution is all about."

Between May and September 7 1787, some 55 delegates from the original colonies met in Philadelphia to write the 4,543-word document that united the struggling young states of America. On reflection in 1997, businessman Thom Strawn made the comment, "A citizen who knows the history of our country, and reads quotes of our founding fathers, understands the Declaration of Independence and Constitution despises the word democracy. 

"The USA was not founded as a democracy. Our Declaration of Independence did not declare a new democracy (it declared free and independent states) and the Constitution was not created as the constitution of a democracy. We pledge allegiance to the flag of the USA 'and to the republic for which it stands', not the democracy for which it stands."

'The Constitution Minutes' was originally shown in 80% of the U.S. TV markets. The program was also shown on public broadcasting stations in 187 cities. Lou Reda insisted 'The Constitution Minutes' called "to distill a perspective to the point, where we really inform the brown-baggers of America what the Constitution is all about. 

"I was in tremendous competition. I wanted to take away that stuffy 200-years-ago look. Everybody knows what happened 200 years ago from their history books. But I wanted to bring it down to the point of telling how the Constitution is being used today (in 1987), why it not only was precious then, but is workable now. 

"Too much of the information coming out about the Constitution is stuffy and pompous. I wanted to generalize it so everybody could learn. I'm interested in informing the brown baggers of this country what the Constitution is all about. The people I like to reach are the people who watch 'Laverne & Shirley.'" 

Farrell Meisel from the TV station WWOR in New York told the Associated Press, "They convey in layman's terms the different parts and important footnotes to the Constitution. The more information we can supply to our viewers the better we are and the better informed our viewers are." WWOR reportedly reached at least 20 million households in the United States.

Pat Servodidio of RKO General stations KHJ in Los Angeles observed, "In an uncomplicated way, these one-minute vignettes will give everyone some insight into what our nation stands for. This is one of the strongest ways to use television. This will give greater reach and cover a variety of topics." 

Professor Richard Morris at Columbia University remarked, "There's a need to educate without doing it in a boring fashion. It will call attention to what the country was like, why the Constitution was necessary to forge a union and to what extent the Constitution is worth celebrating because it has survived 200 years."

The National Constitution Center (http://www.constitutioncenter.org) conducted a telephone survey of 600 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 in 1998. It discovered only 41% of all American teenagers could name the 3 branches of government; only 21% knew how many lawmakers there were in the Senate (100); less than 2% recognize James Madison as the father of the Constitution and only 2% could name the Chief Justice of the United States.

Back then, the National Constitution Center was building a museum in Philadelphia to make Americans more familiar with the Constitution. The Philadelphia Mayor and chairman of the National Constitution Center, Edward Rendell reportedly asked Congress to approve a $20 million contribution toward the museum in 1998. It was also reported the National Constitution Center hoped the government would, in the end, contributed half the $130 million cost.

Mayor Rendell told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, "I believe that building this museum and reversing this tide of ignorance is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy. The Constitution doesn't work by itself. It depends on active, informed citizens." 

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